Killer's wake planned for Osceola
The inmate's execution 'tortured, literally crucified' him, his niece says.
Jeannette Rivera-Lyles | Sentinel Staff Writer
Posted December 18, 2006
Sol Otero, Nieves' niece, told the Orlando Sentinel the body will be laid out for a few hours at Funeraria y Crematorio Porta Coeli, off Osceola Parkway, before it is flown to his native Puerto Rico for burial.
The body of Nieves has been retained by the state longer than expected because of irregularities surrounding his death.
Nieves , who was convicted for the 1979 killing of Miami strip-club manager Joseph Nagy, required two doses of the series of drugs used in Florida's lethal-injection executions. It took 34 minutes for him to die. Most executions end in 15 minutes or less.
A spokeswoman with the state's Department of Corrections said the night of the execution that a liver condition had caused the drugs to work slower.
But an autopsy revealed that the liver appeared normal. It also found that the needle carrying the drugs had gone through Nieves' vein and lodged into soft tissue and muscle. A second dose was administered.
Witnesses' accounts indicate that Nieves showed signs of pain, such as grimacing and gasping for air, and that he continued to move after the third and final drug, potassium chloride, was administered the first time. This would indicate that Nieves had not been knocked out by the two previous drugs.
"The pain [caused by potassium chloride] is excruciating," Otero said. "My uncle was tortured, literally crucified, for 34 minutes. Why would they administer it if obviously he was still conscious?"
The chemical compound traumatizes internal organs and stops the heart by provoking a massive heart attack.
Otero said the image of a crucifixion came to her before the execution when she went to see the gurney onto which her uncle's body was going to be strapped. The gurney has two winglike shelves that extend out on each side, to which the inmate's arms are secured.
Gov. Jeb Bush appointed a commission to investigate Nieves' execution and halted all others indefinitely. A report is due by March 1.
Otero said the attorney for the family, Todd Doss, is looking into whether the second series of drugs was administered in its entirety. The family thinks only the third drug -- potassium chloride, used to induce the heart attack -- might have been used in the second injections.
Doss could not be reached Sunday.
The attorney has handled at least one other high-profile death-penalty case. He told The Associated Press he is considering legal action against the state.
Jeannette Rivera-Lyles can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 407-420-5471.