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Former Florida cop facing execution loses appeal

The Associated Press
Published:   |   Updated: March 14, 2013 at 03:09 AM

TALLAHASSEE — A former South Florida police officer who is facing execution on Dec. 11 for killing nine people in 1986 lost an appeal Tuesday in the state Supreme Court.

A lawyer for Manuel Pardo Jr. said the decision would be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court and another case would be filed in a Jacksonville federal court.

"One of the problems with old cases such as Mr. Pardo's is it's hard to get courts, particularly state courts, to consider issues in those cases," William McKinley Hennis III said.

Hennis works for the state's Office of Capital Collateral Regional Counsel for South Florida, which represents death row inmates from that region.

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.

Against the advice of his lawyers, Pardo admitted to the killings in courtroom testimony, saying the victims were drug dealers who "have no right to live."

Another claim was that changes in Florida's three-drug lethal injection procedure would result in a painful death, which would violate a constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment. The changes included replacing one anesthetic with another. The justices dismissed the painful death argument as "pure speculation and conjecture."

The high court also turned aside another contention that the state is unconstitutionally denying access to public records that could help prove the changes would cause pain. It said Pardo failed to show how that's relevant to a cruel and unusual punishment claim.

"The total veil of secrecy about the lethal injection process is why we've had botched executions in Florida," Hennis said. He said other states have turned over similar documents. But Florida, which prides itself on open records, does not.

If Pardo fails to get a stay he'll be the first inmate executed under the latest changes in the lethal injection procedure, which were made in September, Hennis said.

John Errol Ferguson was supposed to be the first, but he received a stay of execution in October so a federal appellate court could consider a new appeal. Ferguson was convicted of killing eight people in Miami-Dade County in 1977 and 1978. His lawyers contend Ferguson, 64, shouldn't be executed because he is severely mentally ill and legally incompetent.

Pardo was dubbed the "Death Row Romeo" in the 1990s. He placed lonely hearts ads in tabloids, carried on torrid correspondence with vulnerable women and then scammed them out of hundreds or thousands of dollars.

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