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Florida Executes Convicted Killer Using Untested Drug

Florida Department of Corrections spokeswoman Michelle Glady addresses reporters after the execution of Mark Asay, in Starke, Fla., Aug. 24, 2017.

The U.S. state of Florida has carried out its first execution in nearly two years, using an anesthetic never before included in the mixture of drugs used as a lethal injection to administer a death penalty.

Authorities said Mark Asay, the first white man executed in Florida for the killing of a black man, was pronounced dead Thursday evening at a state prison.

The 53-year-old convict received a three-drug injection that began with etomidate. The anesthetic, commonly used in general surgical procedures, was substituted for a similar agent, midazolam, used in many previous executions. Drug manufacturers have declined to sell midazolam for use in lethal injections.

FILE - This undated photo provided by the Florida Department of Corrections shows Mark Asay.
FILE - This undated photo provided by the Florida Department of Corrections shows Mark Asay.

The anesthetic was followed by a paralyzing drug and then potassium acetate, which stopped Asay's heart. He was pronounced dead several minutes after the first drug was administered, and witnesses said he barely moved.

Janssen Pharmaceutica of Belgium, a subsidiary of the U.S. medical group Johnson & Johnson, developed etomidate and has objected to its use in executions.

"Janssen discovers and develops medical innovations to save and enhance lives," spokesman Greg Panico told The Washington Post. "We do not condone the use of our medicines in lethal injections for capital punishment."

Asay was convicted of making racist comments 30 years ago and fatally shooting Robert Lee Booker, a black man who was 34 at the time. On the same night in 1987, Asay also killed a mixed-race man whom he had hired as a prostitute.

Thursday's execution was the first in Florida since a court-ordered temporary ban halted use of the death penalty in early 2016. Earlier in the day, Asay's final appeal of his sentence was rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The condemned man did not speak before the lethal injection was administered. A spiritual adviser who visited Asay said he admitted spouting racial epithets at the time of the killings, when he was drunk and angry.

Asay was the first white man executed in Florida for killing a black man. Since the state reinstated use of the death penalty in 1976, at least 20 black men have been executed for killing white victims, according to data from the Death Penalty Information Center.