When Florida followed through with the execution of John Ruthell Henry Wednesday evening, it brought the tally of state executions in the last 24 hours up to three, a change of pace since a botched lethal injection in Oklahoma on April 29 caused a de facto pause on the death penalty due to national jitters over the humaneness of the drugs used in the procedure.
Henry, who stabbed his wife and her son to death in 1985, was pronounced dead at 7:43 p.m. His lawyers petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to stay the execution just hours before it was set to occur, saying the 63-year-old was not mentally capable of withstanding a death sentence. Henry reportedly has an I.Q. of 78. The U.S. Supreme Court rejected the appeal.
This recent spate of executions comes just months after Oklahoma botched the lethal injection of inmate Clayton Lockett, who had a heart attack and whose physical movements indicated pain for 25 minutes after being administered the lethal injection. In the wake of that execution, a number of appeals have been granted to prisoners seeking to avoid a similar fate.
Lawyers for Marcus Wellons, executed on Tuesday evening in Georgia, and John Winfield, executed Wednesday afternoon in Missouri, used similar arguments in their appeals, but were rejected.
Henry’s lawyers, however, also argued that the death row inmate’s intellectual ability was in question—citing a Supreme Court ruling that bans the execution of mentally disabled. The Supreme Court ruled in May that Florida’s IQ score cutoff of 70 for capital punishment doesn’t hold up, saying IQ scores are imprecise.
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