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By the numbers

Death penalty future rides on Schwab execution

By Chris Tisch, Times Staff Writer
In print: Tuesday, July 1, 2008


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Mark Dean Schwab, 39, is set to be executed tonight.
Mark Dean Schwab, 39, is set to be executed tonight.

STARKE — Much will be at stake when the curtains part on Florida's death chamber at Florida State Prison this evening. It will be one of the most important days in the history of the state's ultimate punishment.

Pending an unlikely 11th-hour stay, Mark Dean Schwab will be strapped to a gurney to face a 6 p.m. death by lethal injection. Schwab, 39, is condemned for abducting, raping and killing an 11-year-old boy in Cocoa, a small town on Florida's east coast.

If Schwab's death appears peaceful, executions in Florida could rev up for the first time in two years. But if anything goes wrong, the state's death penalty system will be in turmoil — again.

Florida's death penalty has been at a standstill since the Dec. 13, 2006, execution of Angel Diaz. Corrections officials mistakenly poked needles through Diaz's veins and chemicals sprayed into his flesh. His death took twice as long as normal and appeared painful to some observers.

Then-Gov. Jeb Bush halted all executions and convened a panel to study procedures. Several changes were made, but executions were delayed again when the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to review a challenge to lethal injection protocols in Kentucky.

The high court in April upheld Kentucky's procedures as constitutional. Without a stay, Schwab's execution will be the 10th in the nation since that decision.

Gov. Charlie Crist on Monday said he would like to see executions accelerate.

"There's an old adage in law that justice delayed is justice denied, and I believe that," Crist said. "I'm very sympathetic to the family members of those who have had members of their family taken from us — murdered."

Bush also had hoped to speed up executions. And though he oversaw more executions than any Florida governor in modern death penalty history, executions still couldn't outpace the number of people sentenced to death row during his tenure.

Since 2005, for instance, only five inmates have been executed while 59 people have been sentenced to death row — 31 alone since Diaz's botched execution.

Florida, which has averaged only about two executions per year since 1979, currently houses 388 people on death row. At that rate, a vast majority will die in prison of old age.

"It's going to be very hard to catch up," said Charles Rose, a professor at the Stetson University College of Law.

Though it appears it's clear sailing for the death penalty, the state has had numerous problems with executions, including inmates burning or bleeding in the electric chair. Florida adopted lethal injection to assuage constitutional concerns about cruelty, but that method has had problems, too.

Death penalty defense lawyers say a three-drug cocktail used to execute inmates can cause pain and suffering banned by the Constitution. A sedative provided to put the inmate to sleep can wear off too fast, they say, causing inmates to feel an excruciating burning sensation when the third chemical is injected.

In addition, they say, corrections staffers are not properly trained to do lethal injections.

But corrections spokeswoman Gretl Plessinger said medical professionals are involved in the process. She said the execution team has been practicing and has adopted changes recommended by the commission that studied the protocols. This includes a provision that a warden ensure Schwab is unconscious before a fatal chemical is injected.

"Our goal is a humane and dignified death," Plessinger said.

Mark Elliott, executive director of Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, said he thinks opposition to executions has coalesced since the Diaz debacle. He said vigils are planned in a dozen Florida cities today, more than in past executions.

"There seems to be more interest and dissatisfaction with what's happened in Florida," he said.

Rose, the Stetson professor, said death penalty advocates also will be keeping a close eye on Florida today.

"They're going to watch this very closely to see if it's going to work," he said. If it does, "then I think it's back to business as usual until there's another problem."

Schwab, 39, was released early from prison in 1991 after serving time for raping a 13-year-old boy at knifepoint. Only about a month later, Schwab saw a photo of Junny Rios-Martinez in a local newspaper. The 11-year-old boy had won a kite-flying contest.

Schwab posed as a newspaper reporter interested in helping Junny become a professional surfer. He met with the boy and his family, then called Junny's school posing as his father and setting up a meeting with the boy at a ball field.

Schwab abducted, raped and murdered Junny. He fled to Ohio but was caught days later and led authorities to the body, which he had put in a footlocker and hidden in a remote palmetto thicket.

Times staff writer Steve Bousquet contributed to this report.


388 Inmates currently
on death row

5
Executions since 2005

59
People sentenced to Florida's death row since 2005

64 Executions since Florida's modern death penalty began in 1979

2.2 Average number of executions a year

14 Average length of stay in years of current death row inmates

34 Number of years that Gary Alvord, sentenced to die in 1974 for killing three women in Hillsborough County, has been on death row, the longest of current inmates



>>fast facts

Last 5 executions

Angel Diaz, Dec. 13, 2006. Condemned for the 1979 shooting of a Miami topless bar manager during a robbery.

Danny Rolling, Oct. 25, 2006. Condemned for killing five people in Gainesville in 1990.

Arthur Rutherford, Oct. 18, 2006. Condemned for killing a North Florida woman during a robbery in her home in 1985.

Clarence Hill, Sept. 20, 2006. Condemned for killing a Pensacola police officer in 1982.

Glen Ocha, April 5, 2005. Condemned for murdering a 28-year-old woman he met at a bar in Kissimmee.

Executions by governor

Jeb Bush: 21

Lawton Chiles: 18

Bob Graham: 16

Bob Martinez: 9


[Last modified: Jul 02, 2008 10:00 PM]



Share your thoughts on this story

Comments on this article
by Mark Jul 1, 2008 5:04 PM
How can anyone complain about cruel and unusual punishement? When? What did the victum receive on this? Is a 13 year old boy being raped and killed cruel and unusual punishment?
by tim Jul 1, 2008 5:03 PM
If only Schwab were an Iraqi terrorist he'd be released and get a cash settlement to boot!
by Jason A. Jul 1, 2008 5:03 PM
BRING BACK OL' SPARKY!!!!
by Frank Jul 1, 2008 4:46 PM
"Corrections officials mistakenly poked needles through Diaz's veins and chemicals sprayed into his flesh. His death took twice as long as normal and appeared painful to some observers." Awwww..did the poor killer have some pain? Give me a break!
by LittleBro Jul 1, 2008 4:44 PM
Wow - I'm on tenterhooks. Bottom of the ninth and Casey's at the bat and the whole season is riding on this next pitch. Wait - you're not talking about baseball, are you? Sorry. My bad.
by Paul Jul 1, 2008 4:42 PM
He did not care how his victum died why should we care how he does.
by Butch Jul 1, 2008 4:41 PM
Start lining them up with a rope around their necks. They deserve anything they feel. I'm sure the killers used non-painful means with their victims.
by A Jul 1, 2008 4:39 PM
A humane death? He doesn't deserve a humane death. Did the young boy he raped and murdered die with dignity? I think not. Hang the scumbag.
by Dee Jul 1, 2008 4:39 PM
Lets get on with the executions,Christ needs to catch up with Jeb Bush,Get these murders in line and be done with it .Hurry up Charlie
by Me Jul 1, 2008 4:39 PM
Who cares that it took to long for him to die, he MURDERED someone. He didn't care about their pain and suffering!
by Ron Jul 1, 2008 4:38 PM
Cruel and unusual punishment for a men convicted of murders and/or rape...give me a break, its cheaper just to get rid of scum like that.
by Kathryn Jul 1, 2008 4:38 PM
Personally, I think the death penalty laws are much too lenient. One appeal, especially if hard evidence is involved, should be all they get and then they are out of here. Fourteen years average stay is rediculous.
by MM Jul 1, 2008 4:37 PM
That SOB is lucky that's all he gets..sick bastard! He should die a miserable death!
by LDH Jul 1, 2008 4:36 PM
In cases where the victims were tortured (rape included) before their death the condemned should be put at the top of the list for execution. That is the most vile crime, especially against children and mentall ill. I feel no sorrow for this monster.
by bill Jul 1, 2008 4:35 PM
needs to be executed, should never had been released from prison.
by Sophia Jul 1, 2008 4:25 PM
Line them up and execute them - hell, sell tickets!! That should help raise some tax dollars. I really don't see the reason to make it "humane and dignified" when they raped & murdered people! How humane and dignified was it for their victims?
by Katie Jul 1, 2008 4:24 PM
REALLY? I hope EVERY death row inmates feels the injection so badly they hysterically cry out in pain. The pain they've caused the people and families they've harmed is beyond any pain these wastes could ever feel. Burn & bleed!
by Sylvia Jul 1, 2008 4:24 PM
I am a former resident of Florida and I agree with every comment expressed so far. My only hope would be that you ban together and hold your own vigil to let this scum know how you feel. The opponents sure are. Show your support for the deathpenalty
by JO Jul 1, 2008 4:24 PM
HE HAD NO FEELINGS FOR HIS VICTIM SO WHY SHOULD WE CARE WHAT HE FEELS.
by Gilbert Jul 1, 2008 4:23 PM
I think all Legal State Executions should be put on the internet! To include the very last gasp of air, last meal etc...anybody with me? Lets start with next Child Killer/Molester! They have internet in prison don't they? 11:36A, I like that comment!
by Rich Jul 1, 2008 4:23 PM
WOOO HOOO!
by CHRIS Jul 1, 2008 4:21 PM
DON'T FORGET THE PAIN HIS 11 YEAR VICTIM SUFFERED, BUT ALSO THE 13 YEAR OLD VICTIM THAT HE RAPED EARLIER. I THINK LETHEL INJECTION IS TOO GOOD FOR THIS GUY. HE NEEDS A NICE SLOW RAPE TOO...AND THEN A NICE SLOW DEATH
by Helen Jul 1, 2008 4:20 PM
Let's see - didn't they just throw out a death sentence for rape? Hmmm...seems to me this guy would not have been around to rape and kill this boy had he not been released on the first rape.
by Tom D Jul 1, 2008 4:19 PM
Good !!!! The sooner the better !!!!
by SEJ Jul 1, 2008 1:54 PM
FLORIDA NEEDS TO GET LIKE TEXAS...THEY GO AHEAD AND GET IT DONE...THEY DON'T FEED AND HOUSE THEM FOR YEARS AND YEARS!
by Terri Jul 1, 2008 1:52 PM
We recently went to a museum in Cedar Key, and learned that back in the 30's executions were done thirty days after finding someone guilty. If that happened now, think of the savings Florida would have. I think it would be prudent to look at this...
by Matt Jul 1, 2008 1:52 PM
Gandhi wrote "an eye for an eye only makes the whole world blind." I am always amazed by Christians that support the death penalty. It does not deter crime, it costs the state more than does life in prison and it is runs counter to the bible.
by Reese Jul 1, 2008 1:50 PM
Let it hurt, that poor boy was in pain i'm quite sure.
by JB Jul 1, 2008 11:55 AM
"Humane and dignified death" ARE YOU KIDDING ME?? What part of that did his 11 year old victim get? Disgusting piece of garbage!! I hope he feels everything injected into him, burning from inside out-and that still wouldnt be good enough!
by Satan Jul 1, 2008 11:41 AM
Can't wait to meet you, Markie Poo!
by TANYA Jul 1, 2008 11:39 AM
388 ON DEATH ROW, LET'S SEE...24 HOURS IN A DAY...ONE KILLED PER HOUR, WE SHOULD HAVE THIS TASK ACCOMPLISHED/COMPLETED IN 16 DAYS/16 HOURS....SAVE THE TAX $ FOR NEW FLA TRANSIT!!
by Mimi Jul 1, 2008 11:38 AM
Blah,blah blah,Lets get to the important stuff like what is his last meal request ya know whats the final menu.Lethal injection is too nice.How about simple stangulation courtesy of a volunteer.Better than a stress ball.
by Derek Jul 1, 2008 11:36 AM
I could care less about the comfort of a child killer...as far as I am concerned, he's getting a break with the lethal injection. He will see God soon and then the real problems begin.
by Larry Jul 1, 2008 11:30 AM
The libs have their crying towels out today. Too bad they don't have as much energy and compassion for the victims of such monsters. The writer mentioned the nameless child in one passing reference sentence shared with his killer. Tich can't write!
by adog Jul 1, 2008 10:58 AM
peace brutha, may they make another mistake that makes it twace as long and twice a painful.
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