A battle may be brewing over how to kill a serial killer.
Attorneys for infamous Tampa Bay area murderer Bobby Joe Long are challenging the state’s lethal injection procedure, citing it would be “crual and unusual” and therefore unconstitutional under the Eighth Amendment.
The state remains determined to see the sentence through.
Bobby Joe Long was not physically in court Friday, instead calling in from prison. His attorney Robert Norgard spent hours arguing during the evidentiary hearing why the convicted killer should not die in 20 days time.
Florida carries out lethal injection with a three drug protocol, beginning with a large dose of the anesthetic etomidate to knock the inmate out.
Norgard argued before Judge Michelle Sisco that etomidate has been known to induce seizures, and because Long has epilepsy and suffers from a traumatic brain injury, it would be unconstitutional to subject him to the etomidate as part of the procedure.
“It’s ridiculous that I’m expected to come in there and say ‘here’s a better way to kill my client,'” Norgard explained to News Channel 8 after the hearing wrapped up late Friday afternoon.
However, Norgard said the burden of finding a more humane alternative falls on the defendant, rather than the state. He is pushing for a one drug lethal injection utilizing Pentobarbital, a method used in a handful of other states.
The Florida Department of Corrections does not currently possess Pentobarbital, Norgard said, but expressed he believed it would not be unfeasible for the DOC to acquire it. The state argued otherwise.
The state also argued and presented expert witnesses Friday to dispel the notion that using etomidate to sedate Long would be torturous based on his medical history.
One pharmacologist explained that etomidate has been known to induce seizures in small doses, but has an opposite effect in large doses and the lethal injection protocol uses a very large dose.
“The defendant is not even entitled to a pain-free death,” said one of the state’s attorneys during closing statements. “Michelle Simms certainly did not have one in this case.”
While Long was convicted of killing nine women, he received the death penalty specifically for the murder of Michelle Simms.
For the families of Long’s victims, such as Chanel Williams’ mother, Lula Williams, who sat in on Friday’s hearing, the only thing they believe is cruel and unusual is how long they’ve waited for justice to be carried out.
“What pain?” Williams asked.
“He inflicted pain on my daughter and the other victims. And he’s worried about pain? What’s he going to feel? No. That’s not right.”
The judge did not make a ruling Friday and has until 3 p.m. Monday to issue one.
As of now, Bobby Joe Long is scheduled to die May 23rd at 6 p.m.