Law professor: “Nobody” executing Death Row inmate

Chance Meyer, a Nova Southeastern University law professor who previously defended prisoners sentenced to death, penned an op-ed in advance of the execution of Cary Michael Lambrix, scheduled for Oct. 5.

Meyer, an instructor and adjunct professor at Nova’s Shepard Broad College of Law, contends those involved in the execution process — including Gov. Rick Scott — maintain that they are merely following state law in ordering and performing death by lethal injection.

Here’s Meyer’s take on the proces:

Nobody is going to execute Michael Lambrix

On Thursday, October 5, around 6:00 in the evening, in the lethal injection chamber at Florida State Prison in Bradford County, nobody is going to execute Michael Lambrix.

Nobody on the team of corrections officers that performs the lethal injection will be the one who executes Lambrix. Department of Corrections procedures give each officer a discrete task in the overall process, so nobody is responsible for the end result. The tasks are “requisite,” so nobody has to choose whether to perform them. The officers’ identities are “kept strictly confidential,” so nobody has to be anybody.

The officers just follow orders from the warden. And the warden just follows orders from the Governor.

On September 1, Governor Rick Scott sent the warden a death warrant ordering Lambrix executed.

In the warrant, Scott explained that a Florida statute “requires that I set a . . . date for execution . . . .” In other words, he didn’t choose to have Lambrix executed. Nobody did. He just followed orders from the Florida Legislature.

The Legislature passed the statute in 2013, as part of the so-called Timely Justice Act. At that time, legislators explained that their intent for the act was “that capital postconviction proceedings be conducted in accordance with court rules, and that courts strictly adhere to the timeframes . . . established therein.” In other words, the Legislature was not giving new orders. Nobody was. The Legislature was just trying to ensure that everyone would follow court orders.

A court ordered Lambrix executed, but neither the judge that issued the order nor the jurors that voted for the execution are responsible.

Lambrix was sentenced in 1984. His judge made the critical findings necessary to impose the death penalty. Since then, the U.S. Supreme Court has held that only juries, not judges, can make “the critical findings necessary to impose the death penalty.”

In 1984, his jury’s recommended sentence of death was not unanimous. Since then, the Florida Supreme Court has held that a “jury’s recommended sentence of death must be unanimous.”

So nobody made a lawful decision to execute Lambrix.

“[T]umble[ing] down the dizzying rabbit hole of untenable line drawing” is how Justice Lewis of the Florida Supreme Court describes the legal regime that permits defendants like Lambrix to be executed. Nobody understands it.

So, on Thursday, October 5, around 6:00 in the evening, in the lethal injection chamber at Florida State Prison in Bradford County, nobody is going to execute Michael Lambrix.