Sue Ogrocki / AP Photo

Florida executes man who spent 30 years on death row

Florida executed Jerry Correll for fatally stabing his ex-wife, her mother, her sister and their daughter 30 years ago

Florida has executed a man convicted of fatally stabbing his ex-wife, young daughter and two others in 1985.

Jerry Correll, 59
AP/Florida Dept. of Law Enforcement

Jerry Correll was pronounced dead at 7:36 p.m. Thursday at Florida State Prison after receiving a lethal injection. The execution came after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected his last appeals. 

Correll, strapped to the death gurney, said "no sir" when asked if he had any final statement before his execution. He mouthed the words "thank you" to a chaplain sitting in the front row. A group of witnesses sobbed while holding hands.

Correll's upper body convulsed for about 10 seconds when the lethal injection was administered at 7:27 p.m. His body then stopped moving, his eyes fluttered and his mouth opened. He was pronounced dead nine minutes later.

Correll is the 22nd inmate to be executed under Gov. Rick Scott — the most executions under a single governor since the death penalty was reinstated in Florida in 1979. Twenty-one inmates were executed during two full terms of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush who is now campaigning to be the Republican candidate for president.

Correll had a cheeseburger, French fries and a Coca-Cola as his final meal, said Florida Department of Corrections spokesman McKinley Lewis. Lewis said Correll was "calm and in good spirits" before the execution and that he spoke with his surviving daughter on the telephone.

The victims' families released a statement after the execution saying they "are at peace in knowing justice has finally been served."

"We say this without vengeance in our hearts but with the belief that there should be proper consequences for the actions of each and every individual. New families have formed. Grandchildren have been born that will, unfortunately, never know their great-grandmother, grandmother, great-aunt and cousin."

The 59-year-old Correll was found guilty and sentenced to death for each of the four slayings. He was convicted of killing his former wife Susan Correll, their 5-year-old daughter, Tuesday; Susan Correll's mother, Mary Lou Hines; and Susan Correll's sister, Marybeth Jones.

The U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way for the execution, with the majority rejecting without comment Correll's request for a stay at 6:40 p.m. Thursday, 40 minutes after the execution was scheduled.

Justices Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor dissented, saying Correll's execution should be delayed while the court decides whether Florida's capital punishment system is constitutional. The system says the jury's vote on whether to impose a death sentence is only advisory with the judge making the final decision.

Breyer also said keeping a prisoner on death row for 30 years constitutes cruel and unusual punishment.

Correll's execution was originally set for February but was delayed as the U.S. Supreme Court weighed a challenge to the use of the sedative midazolam in lethal injections.

In a 5-4 ruling in June in a challenge brought by three Oklahoma death row inmates, the high court cleared the drug for use, finding midazolam did not violate the Constitution's ban on cruel and unusual punishment. Oklahoma, however, has postponed all executions for 2015 after a mix-up in which the state obtained the wrong drug for its lethal injection protocol.

Correll's attorneys subsequently argued in state court that the drug would have a uniquely cruel impact on him because his history of brain damage and drug use.

A state circuit judge ruled against Correll in August, and the Florida Supreme Court earlier this month lifted a stay on his execution.

Al Jazeera and The Associated Press

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