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Appeals court refuses to block execution

Florida Department of Corrections photo of Robert Joseph Long
Florida Department of Corrections photo of Robert Joseph Long

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – With serial killer Bobby Joe Long scheduled to be put to death by lethal injection Thursday, a federal appeals court has refused his request for a stay of execution.

A three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday rejected last-minute arguments raised on behalf of Long, who is slated to die for the 1984 murder of Michelle Simms in Hillsborough County.

The arguments, in part, challenged the state’s lethal-injection process, which involves the use of three drugs.

“The first of Long’s method of execution claims is that Florida’s use of a three-drug protocol instead of a one-drug protocol violates the Eighth Amendment,” appeals-court Chief Judge Ed Carnes wrote, referring to the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment. “But Florida has used a three-drug protocol since January 14, 2000, when it added lethal injection as a new method of execution. Long has had 19 years to challenge the use of a three-drug protocol. Nineteen years is too long to wait.”

Gov. Ron DeSantis last month signed a death warrant for Long to be executed at 6 p.m. Thursday at Florida State Prison.

The execution would be the first since DeSantis took office in January.

While Long, 65, faces the death penalty for Simms’ murder, he also pleaded guilty in 1985 to seven additional first-degree murder charges and numerous charges for sexual batteries and kidnappings in the Tampa Bay region.

The ruling Wednesday by the Atlanta-based appeals court came after the Florida Supreme Court also turned down arguments designed to prevent the execution.

The appeals court ruling said Long also has filed two petitions this week at the U.S. Supreme Court.