The latest Florida execution, that of former police officer Manuel Pardo Jr., appears to be moving ahead as scheduled, after his appeals were turned down by the state Supreme Court last Tuesday, Dec. 4. Pardo is scheduled to be executed tomorrow at Florida State Prison in Starke at 6 p.m. ET for the 1986 killings of nine people in Miami.
According to The Associated Press, “The state Supreme Court, in a unanimous, unsigned opinion, rejected an argument that the 56-year-old ex-Sweetwater police officer was insane at the time of the killings and incompetent to stand trial.”
Pardo’s attorneys are appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court and there is another hearing scheduled for today in front of a Jacksonville, Fla., federal judge. In addition to arguing that he is mentally incompetent, his lawyers claim that the state has not turned over enough public records regarding the injection procedure, which was updated in September (the link here is to the old process manual and does not reflect these changes). One of Pardo’s attorneys, William McKinley Hennis III, says that the changes, which involve using a new drug, could cause a painful death, violating the Eight Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment.
“The total veil of secrecy about the lethal injection process is why we’ve had botched executions in Florida,” Hennis told The Associated Press. But the Florida Supreme Court dismissed the painful death argument, calling it “speculation and conjecture,” and denied the claim that the state was withholding public records that would prove the painful death claim.
If the execution proceeds, Pardo will be the first inmate executed in the state using vecuronium bromide. Presumably the switch is due to difficulties in securing sodium thiopental, an anesthetic administered prior to the other two drugs. Back in January 2011, the Orlando Sentinel reported on the state’s problems in finding the drug after an Illinois drug company decided to stop making it.
“We do use that drug in our lethal-injection process,” then Department of Corrections spokeswoman Gretl Plessinger told the Sentinel at the time. “We are exploring other options. At this point, we’re looking at making changes to the procedure. If we change one drug, we might have to change another drug.”
Vecuronium bromide is also used in lethal injections in Oklahoma.
Pardo’s case stands out among Florida’s death row cases, both in the number of people killed and the fact that he was a military veteran turned cop turned serial killer. Pardo shot nine people execution-style between January and April 1986 and kept news clippings of each crime. The Bellingham Herald has a detailed write-up of Pardo’s history and crime spree, which you can read in full here.
During his trial, Pardo admitted to the killings, against the advice of his attorneys, saying the victims were drug dealers who “have no right to live.” There are a slew of similar statements found in various news reports on Pardo, such as him telling a jury ““I sent their souls to the eternal fires of damnation of hell for the misery they caused” and his asking for the death penalty in his sentencing hearing, telling the court: “What I’m begging you to do is let me have a glorious ending and not condemn me to a state institution for the rest of my life. I’m not a criminal. I’m a soldier. As a soldier, I ask to be given the death penalty. I accomplished my mission.”
Pardo continued to make headlines after his arrival on death row, when he started running a scam that earned him the name “Death Row Romeo.” According to FlaglerLive.com, Pardo “placed lonely hearts ads in tabloids, carried on torrid correspondence with vulnerable women and then scammed them out of hundreds or thousands of dollars….At one point, according to press accounts, ‘Pardo had $3,530 in his prison canteen account, affording him Cuban espresso coffee, a radio with headphones, shampoo, potato chips, candy bars and shorts, among other things,’ Barbara Ford, a woman who had been scammed while he was in prison said.”
Pardo’s execution is being protested by the Catholic Bishops of Florida, who circulated a press release today saying, “Realizing that Manual Pardo, Jr. wrongfully killed instead of pursuing legal means to arrest persons violating the law, the Catholic Bishops of Florida continue to speak out against the violence of execution and plead for life in prison without possibility of parole for Mr. Pardo.
“While the Catholic Church recognizes that the state has the right to carry out the death penalty under certain circumstances, the modern penal institutions make this unnecessary as the public is protected from any further harm. We believe that even though all life may not be innocent, all life is sacred. State sanctioned killing diminishes all citizens when the State takes the life of the convicted in our name.”
The bishops will be holding a prayer vigil tomorrow at the time the execution is scheduled at St. Mary Cathedral in Miami.
Baring any stays, Pardo will be the third and final execution of 2012 in Florida, and the youngest inmate executed under Governor Rick Scott.