Florida Will Execute a White Man for Killing a Black Man for the First Time
Florida has one of the highest execution rates of any state. But it has never executed a white man for killing a black victim. That will change on Thursday, as Mark Asay, a white man convicted of killing a black man in 1987, is set to be killed via lethal injection. In another first, the execution will involve an untested concoction of three drugs, which has raised concerns among Asay’s attorneys and lethal injection experts.
In 1988, Asay, whose body is tattooed with swastikas, was convicted by a jury of two racially motivated first-degree murders in Jacksonville. He allegedly killed Robert Lee Booker, a 34-year-old black man, after making racist comments. Asay is also accused of murdering 26-year-old Robert McDowell during a paid sexual encounter.
Since 1976, when Florida reinstated the death penalty, the state has executed 20 black men for killing white victims, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. In total, 92 death row inmates have been executed in Florida since 1976, the fourth highest state tally.
But over the past year and a half, Florida’s Governor Rick Scott, who has signed death warrants at a record clip, has been stymied by the U.S. Supreme Court. Early last year, the Supreme Court ruled that Florida’s capital punishment system was unconstitutional, because it gave judges more power than juries. In response, Florida’s legislature passed a law requiring a unanimous jury for death penalty recommendations. Despite multiple appeals, Asay, 53, will be the first inmate executed in Florida since the Supreme Court’s ruling 18 months ago.
But a member of Florida’s Supreme Court and a lethal injection expert have questioned the untested three-drug formula that will be used to execute Asay. Last week, the Florida Supreme Court rejected an appeal by Asay’s attorneys. But Justice Barbara Pariente, in a dissenting opinion, wrote: “In its rush to execute Asay, the state has jeopardized Asay’s fundamental constitutional rights and treated him as the proverbial guinea pig of its newest lethal injection protocol.”
Jen Moreno, a lethal injection expert who works as a staff attorney at the University of California, Berkeley, Law School’s death penalty clinic, also opposes the untested killing method. “There are outstanding questions about whether it’s going to do what it needs to do during an execution,” Moreno told the Associated Press. “The state hasn’t provided any information about why it has selected this drug.”