Florida Execution Leaves 'Old Sparky' Unemployed

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Florida executed a man on Wednesday who was convicted of murdering two relatives in 1990, marking the 85th instance of capital punishment for the state, and the fourth so far this year.

Robert Hendrix, 47, was pronounced dead at 6:21 p.m. at Florida State Prison in Starke, shortly after a lethal injection procedure began. He remained silent, offering no final words.

Hendrix was convicted of killing his cousin Elmer Scott and his wife Michelle, to prevent them from testifying against him the following day during a burglary trial. Scott had been an accomplice of Hendrix, but reached a plea deal in exchange for his testimony. Hendrix shot, beat and stabbed his cousin, and then cut the throat of Scott's wife, before shooting her.

Florida was the first state to reintroduce the death penalty after the Supreme Court of the United States struck down all capital punishment statutes nationwide in the 1972 Furman v. Georgia decision. All Floridian executions are carried out at Florida State Prison, which houses the sole remaining death chamber statewide. At present, 396 inmates are awaiting execution in Florida, and sixteen inmates have been administered lethal injections since Governor Rick Scott took office in 2011.

While lethal injection has been the preferred method of execution in Florida since 2000, inmates can still request the use of "Old Sparky," the nickname of the electric chair in the states of Arkansas, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, New York, South Carolina, Texas, West Virginia and Virginia. Hendrix opted to stay clear of Old Sparky, as botched execution attempts in this manner are not unheard of, and have a chance of becoming an extremely gruesome form of cruel and unusual punishment.

Last June Governor Rick Scott signed the Timely Justice Act of 2013. The statute is designed to accelerate the capital punishment process. The law forces death row inmates to be quicker about making appeals and post-conviction motions.

Image via WIkimedia Commons

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