The death penalty appears tailor made for Clarence Hill.
In 1982, he gunned down Pensacola police officer Stephen Taylor during a bank robbery, taking an innocent life, causing untold agony to Taylor's family, and sending Hill to death row in a Florida prison.
So justice seemed finally at hand Jan. 24 when Hill was strapped to a gurney with needles in his veins awaiting a lethal dose of drugs. But he never met his maker.
At the last minute, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a stay and agreed to hear Hill's claim that Florida's lethal injection procedure was cruel and inhumane punishment, and violated the Constitution.
On Monday, the high court unanimously ruled Hill could challenge lethal injection on those constitutional grounds, and while not addressing whether the procedure is lawful, sent his case back to lower courts for review.
That flung the door wide open to other death row challenges in Florida and other states, causing more execution delays and raising the possibility the Supreme Court will eventually decide if lethal injection is legal.
The case again shows the nation's death penalty system is a travesty, and that a national commission should be formed to study the issue and recommend whether it should be revamped under strict uniform standards or banned.
There's a mountain of evidence indicating the commission is needed.
The death penalty is applied unevenly, with death rows in the 38 states that levy the punishment disproportionately filled with poor and minority inmates whose legal representation often is in doubt.
And increasingly, DNA and other evidence is proving men on death row innocent, raising the specter of states killing people who are not guilty.
Since 1973, 122 prisoners nationwide have been released from death row after they were shown to be innocent, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.
Some 21 of them have been from Florida, the most of any state.
And in Illinois, then-Gov. George Ryan ordered a moratorium on executions in 2000 after it was proven that 13 death row inmates were wrongly convicted.
The death penalty has a place, but should be used sparingly in narrowly defined crimes.
They include terrorism, police killings, serial killings, child slayings and other particularly heinous murders.
It should be pulled from the books in all other cases and replaced with punishment that in many ways is more hellish:
Life in prison without parole and solitary confinement to a cell.
Until Hill's case is resolved, Gov. Jeb Bush says he won't sign more death warrants. The leaves the 371 inmates on Florida's death row, including 10 from Brevard County, pondering new appeals.
Americans have to realize the death penalty is horribly flawed, and that justice is not being served for the criminals or their victims.
It should be fundamentally changed or abolished, and the decision to do one or the other can't come soon enough. Online poll: Should a national commission examine whether the death penalty should be revamped or banned? Vote yes or no at floridatoday.com/opinion. Clarence Hill is challenging the method of lethal injection because he says it causes too much pain. Hill killed a police officer in 1982.