Mark Asay (below) was put to death this evening for committing a racially-motivated double murder 30 years ago.
This was reportedly the first use of etomidate by the state of Florida to replace midazolam, a sedative that has come under scrutiny for not sufficiently knocking out prisoners before their heart is stopped with the rest of the drug cocktail sequence.
Asay had challenged his execution due to the unproven nature of etomidate as an anesthetic, but was denied stay.
According to Washington Post:
Etomidate has never been used in an execution before, Jen Moreno, a lethal injection expert who works as a staff attorney at the University of California at Berkeley Law School’s death penalty clinic, told the AP. It will be administered first, followed by the paralytic rocuronium bromide. Finally, the potassium acetate will stop the heart.
The etomidate is made by Jannsen, a division of Johnson & Johnson.
A Johnson & Johnson spokesperson told the Post: “We do not condone the use of our medicines in lethal injections for capital punishment.”
The drug also burns and irritates veins if the person being injected has damaged their veins with IV drugs or is old, according to anti-capital punishment surgery professor Jonathan Groner of Ohio State University.
The 1976 Supreme Court case Gregg vs. Georgia confirmed the constitutionality of the death penalty. Over 1,400 inmates have since been put to death nationwide, according to Wikipedia.
Asay, 53, is the first white murderer of a black victim executed since Florida brought back the death penalty in 1976, although “at least” eighteen black Florida men have reportedly been executed for murdering white victims in the same period.
Adora Obi Nweze, a death penalty opponent and president of the Florida State Conference of NAACP, told the Post the death penalty reliably punishes men of color disproportionately.
Asay reportedly used racial slurs specific to the mens’ race around the time he murdered Robert Lee Booker and Robert McDowell in 1987 in Jacksonville, FL. Both Booker and McDowell were initially identified as black; McDowell was later found to be white and Hispanic instead.
The Post reports Asay and his crew were scouring for prostitutes after a night of drinking. Asay called both victims “nigger” in the minutes around their murders. Asay’s friend had promised to buy him oral sex, and at least one of the victims was apparently in negotiations for this purpose when Asay killed him.
McDowell, known to friends and acquaintances as Renee Torres and identified by them as white and Hispanic at trial, was initially labeled “a black man dressed as a woman” in court documents. This was thought to erroneously categorize McDowell’s slaying as racially motivated, but Asay’s death sentence was upheld.
Asay spent 36 years in prison.
Thanks to our sources: