2006: Clarence Hill, former last-minute reprieve beneficiary

Core to the experience of capital punishment is the dramatic last-minute reprieve.

As drama, you can’t do a lot better than a last passport to life delivered seconds ahead of the reaper. Or even seconds after! We’ve seen in these pages the paper of record bemoaning the the very prospect of a late stay as a “refinement of cruelty,” but something tells us that neither party to the transaction will opt to forego it.

This date in 2006 offers the anniversary of the (un-stayed) execution of a man who was making his second visit to the gurney — courtesy of one of those last-gasp reprieves eight months before.

Clarence Hill had murdered a police officer during a botched 1982 bank robbery in Pensacola, Fla.

And when it was time to go, Hill had the rare benefit of experience.

He’d already been all strapped down on January 24 of that same year, with the IV hooked up and ready for someone to drop the plunger, when Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy issued the last-secondest of last second stays.

The purpose of that stay was to allow Hill to pursue an (ultimately unavailing) suit against the constitutionality of Florida’s lethal injection procedures.

Though Hill got no legal traction — literally, the courts declined to act on Hill’s petitions, and then the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 against taking any further action — the whole situation foreshadowed the juridical and procedural dog’s breakfast that lethal injection has become five years hence.

Twelve weeks after Hill’s (“successful”) lethal injection, the Sunshine State badly botched the lethal injection of another man, leading to a yearlong hiatus in American executions while the courts attempted to sort out that lethal injection stuff for real.

It’s doubtful even at this point whether they ever really have.

Part of the Themed Set: Americana.

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