Florida Steps Toward Injection Option for Condemned Inmates

Florida lawmakers have decided to make lethal injection the state's primary method of execution following botched electrocutions that drew criticism and led to a U.S. Supreme Court review.

Condemned inmates would be allowed to choose electrocution under the bill approved overwhelmingly by the state Senate and House on Thursday. Gov. Jeb Bush was expected to sign it.

Still pending was a proposal to speed up appeals by death row inmates. The Republican governor had insisted that the measure accompany any changes to death penalty law.

Among the 38 states with capital punishment, only Florida, Georgia, Alabama and Nebraska require execution by electrocution. Florida has used its electric chair since the early 1920s.

Flames have erupted during two electrocutions in the last decade, and the last condemned man, Allen Lee "Tiny" Davis, suffered a nosebleed during his execution. Pictures of his bloody body and contorted face were posted on the Internet and viewed by hundreds of thousands of people after the state Supreme Court upheld the use of the electric chair.

Executions in Florida came to a halt when the U.S. Supreme Court agreed in October to review whether the electric chair amounts to cruel and unusual punishment.

"We don't want the courts to be the legislators," Republican state Sen. Ginny Brown-Waite said. "My constituents want ... the delays stopped. We're here today to make sure that justice truly is swift."

The 44 people executed in Florida in the last 20 years went to the electric chair more than 10 years after being sentenced. Bush wants that shortened to five years.

Supporters of appeals reform — mostly Republicans — said the remaining measure would stop frivolous appeals and bring legitimate ones before a court more quickly.

Opponents — all Democrats — argued that lawmakers were overstepping their authority and usurping a role that belonged to the judiciary. They also criticized their colleagues for defeating an amendment to allow racial bias to be considered in appeals.

Bush appointed a task force Thursday to study issues of racial discrimination in capital punishment.