At no point in modern history has Florida executed a white man for killing a black victim. But that may change Thursday as the state prepares to execute 53-year-old Mark Asay, and with a drug that has never been used before in any U.S. execution.
According to CBS, with contribution from the Associated Press, barring a stay of execution, Asay is set to die by lethal injection after 6 p.m. Thursday. Asay was convicted by a jury of two racially motivated murders in Jacksonville, Fla., back in 1987.
An anesthetic, etomidate, and two other drugs—rocuronium bromide and potassium acetate—will be used in the lethal injection, the Associated Press reports. The execution will be Florida’s first since the U.S. Supreme Court paused the practice more than 18 months ago following a ruling that the state’s death penalty system was unconstitutional because the state’s sentencing system gave too much power to judges over juries.
Executions statewide came to a stop as Florida lawmakers drew up new legislation, with the result being that ultimately, a jury is required to unanimously agree before sentencing someone to death, the Washington Post notes.
Asay, a former prison gang member who once had a swastika tattoo, was convicted in the deaths of 34-year-old Robert Lee Booker and 26-year-old Renee Torres, who was originally identified in legal documents as “Robert McDowell.”
Prosecutors argued that their race was what incited Asay’s violent behavior in 1987. Witnesses and a jail house informant testified that Asay had used racial slurs while he committed the first murder and after the second.
The night of the murders, Asay was out drinking with his brother and a friend in Jacksonville when they went looking for prostitutes.
Asay’s brother was inside his vehicle and talking to Booker, who stood outside, when Asay walked up and called Booker a “nigger” before pulling out his gun and shooting him in the stomach. Booker died from internal bleeding.
Asay and the friend, identified as “Bubba” McQuinn, fled in Asay’s truck. McQuinn later testified that when he asked Asay why he shot Booker, Asay said, “Because you got to show a nigger who is boss.”
After killing Booker in cold blood, the two kept on looking for prostitutes and stumbled upon Torres. McQuinn testified that Assay grabbed Torres by the arm and shot six times.
The jury sentenced Asay to death by a 9-3 vote.
The case has been in going through the rounds ever since, with the execution first stopped by the U.S. Supreme Court ruling. However, following that decision, the state Supreme Court ruled that only inmates sentenced to death after 2002 would be allowed new hearings. Asay’s case did not fit that criteria, and his attorneys appealed, unsuccessfully.
Asay then appealed based on the new drug cocktail that would be used, but that was also rejected, with officials defending the use of the new drugs despite reservations about their use.
“The Florida Department of Corrections follows the law and carries out the sentence of the court,” Michelle Glady, the Florida Department of Corrections’ spokeswoman, said in a statement to AP. “This is the department’s most solemn duty, and the foremost objective with the lethal-injection procedure is a humane and dignified process.”
Earlier this week, another appeal was issued (and rejected) stemming from the racial implications of the case. As the Post notes, for decades, Asay’s victims were both classified as black; however, it turns out that Torres was biracial—white and Hispanic—not black. The court apologized for the mistake and issued a mea culpa, but also ruled that the mistake did not change the outcome of Asay’s death penalty sentence.
Unless a court or Florida’s governor decides to step in, Asay’s fate is sealed. He will become the 24th inmate to be executed since Gov. Rick Scott took office, the most under any governor in Florida history, CBS-AP notes.
Read more at CBS News and the Washington Post here and here.