TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - The Florida Supreme Court has indefinitely put on hold Tuesday’s scheduled execution of Death Row inmate Jose Antonio Jimenez, convicted of killing a 63-year-old woman nearly 26 years ago in Miami-Dade County.
A unanimous order by the court, issued Friday evening, did not give a reason for granting the stay of execution requested by Jimenez’s lawyer, Marty McClain.
Gov. Rick Scott in July ordered Jimenez, now 54, to be put to death by lethal injection and scheduled the execution for Tuesday. The convicted murderer’s execution would have been the first since the February lethal injection of Eric Branch, who reportedly screamed after being injected with the anesthetic etomidate, the first of the state’s triple-drug lethal injection protocol.
In a motion for a stay of execution filed this week, McClain raised several issues, including the fact that he discovered 80 pages of records related to the investigation into the Oct. 2, 1992, death of Phyllis Minas that the North Miami Police Department had not previously provided to Jimenez’s lawyers.
McClain was first given access to all of the records --- more than 1,000 pages --- on July 30, just two weeks before his client, who maintains his innocence, was scheduled to be executed.
The newly discovered records include pages of handwritten notes made by investigators identified as detectives Ojeda and Diecidue, who interviewed Jimenez following his arrest three days after Minas was murdered, according to court documents filed this week. The records contradict the detectives’ testimony in Jimenez’s case, according to McClain.
“Mr. Jimenez has found, to his mind, surprising and downright shocking information contained in the previously unseen notes,” McClain wrote in a five-page motion filed in Miami-Dade County circuit court Friday. “It appears that the notes of Detective Ojeda, the lead investigator, and Detective Diecidue if not lied, endeavored to deceive when they were deposed by Mr. Jimenez’s trial counsel.”
McClain wrote that he made the discovery within the past 10 days.
“And counsel is frnatical (sic) trying to piece these notes together and understand what occurred while the clock ticks down on Mr. Jimenez’s life,” McClain wrote.
The notes “show that Ojeda and Diecidue were willing (to) give false and/or misleading deposition testimony in order to facilitate Mr. Jimenez’s conviction,” McClain wrote in an eight-page amendment to a motion seeking to vacate his client’s judgment and sentence filed with the Supreme Court this week.
“The new documents show dishonest cops, and the conviction is premised on Ojeda telling the truth,” McClain told The News Service of Florida in a telephone interview Friday evening.
In the motion seeking a stay, McClain also raised the issue of a pending U.S. Supreme Court case, known as Bucklew v. Precythe, which could have an impact on arguments about whether Florida’s lethal-injection protocol is unconstitutional.
The Missouri case deals with a previous U.S. Supreme Court decision, in a case known as Glossip v. Gross, that focused on lethal injection protocols.
That ruling requires prisoners challenging lethal injection procedures to establish that “any risk of harm was substantial when compared to a known and viable alternative method of execution.”
“… (I)t is clear that the U.S. Supreme Court is poised to revisit and clarify the analysis to be used in a challenge to a method of execution. For that reason, a stay of execution would be more than appropriate in this case just as it was in Correll,” McClain wrote, referring to Jerry Correll, who was put to death by lethal injection in 2015 in the first execution after the Supreme Court signed off on the use of the drug midazolam, which has now been replaced by etomidate in Florida.
The Florida Supreme Court’s order Friday halting Jimenez’s execution set a schedule for briefs to be filed by McClain and the state, ending with an Aug. 28 deadline for reply brief to be filed. “Oral argument, if necessary, will be scheduled at a later date,” the order said.
McClain said he did not know the basis of court’s indefinite stay.
“But the fact that it’s until further order of the court, and it was unanimous, there’s something up, but I don’t know what it is,” he said.
McClain said that an expert in a separate lethal-injection case had testified that the use of the drug etomidate could result in screams about 25 percent of the time. The state has used the drug four times as part of a new lethal injection protocol, and Branch was the only inmate who screamed, lending credence to the expert’s testimony, according to McClain.
“Is it OK to have your condemned people scream 25 percent of the time? Are we comfortable with that? And what about the torture to those who are next, who know that 25 percent of the time people are in pain and screaming? Are they going to be the one? And even if they’re not, is it going to be torture for them to be aware of that?” he said.
Dara Kam, News Service of Florida