A Nevada death row inmate is scheduled to die by lethal injection at the beginning of June, but he’s fighting his sentence, and in a recent court filing, he said he’d prefer to die by firing squad rather than a deadly drug cocktail.
In a document filed this month, attorneys for Zane Floyd, sentenced to death for a 1999 Las Vegas shooting that killed four people, said a firing squad would be preferable since a lethal injection could cause Floyd “unconstitutional pain and suffering.”
But Nevada no longer uses firing squads for executions.
According to the filing obtained by CNN, the state would execute Floyd using a three-drug cocktail that includes midazolam, a drug used to induce drowsiness and reduce anxiety; fentanyl, an opioid rarely used in lethal injections; and cisatracurium, a paralytic.
Attorneys for Floyd claim the protocol “presents a wholly unnecessary, substantial risk of serious harm” when used in a lethal injection.
Because the combination of drugs is “novel” and could cause Floyd pain while he dies, his attorneys wrote in their filing, the execution would constitute “cruel and unusual punishment.”
State law requires Floyd to provide an alternative method of execution, according to his complaint, so he suggested a firing squad.
But Nevada requires that all executions be carried out through lethal injections. Firing squads are not authorized, said Nevada Department of Corrections deputy public information officer Teri Vance.
Brad Levenson, an assistant federal public defender who represents Floyd, told CNN that the filing was not an attempt to delay Floyd’s execution.
His death is scheduled for June 7 – two weeks before the state’s Board of Pardons Commissioners is scheduled to meet. Levenson has filed for more time before the board meets, one of at least 12 recent complaints he said he’s filed on Floyd’s behalf, including one that alleges Floyd has brain damage caused by prenatal exposure to alcohol.
It’s not clear whether the state can carry out executions – in July 2020, the American Bar Association reported that Nevada returned the state’s unused supply of lethal injection drugs “as part of a settlement to a lawsuit brought by drug manufacturers.”
The settlement left the state with no “current means of carrying out an execution,” according to the ABA.
It is unclear why Nevada intends to use this particular combination of drugs and the Nevada Attorney General’s Office declined to comment to CNN about the state’s ability to carry out executions, referring CNN to the Nevada Department of Corrections. The Nevada Department of Corrections declined to comment on the July 2020 report, as well.
Sentenced to death for a mass shooting
Floyd was sentenced to death for a 1999 supermarket shooting in Las Vegas, where he killed four people and injured another. A jury found that the murders were committed “at random and without apparent motive,” according to the Supreme Court of Nevada’s 2002 opinion.
On the same day as the shooting, Floyd sexually assaulted a woman at his apartment, according to the opinion. In addition to four counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder, Floyd was convicted of kidnapping using a deadly weapon and four counts of sexual assault with the use of a deadly weapon.
Floyd unsuccessfully appealed the decision at least twice after his conviction, Nevada court records show.
Nevada death row inmates haven’t died by firing squad in decades
Nevada is one of 27 states that has authorized capital punishment, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Since 1979, all executions in Nevada have been carried out by lethal injection, according to the nonprofit Death Penalty Information Center.
In the last 25 years, the state has executed 12 people, Vance with the corrections department told CNN. If Floyd is executed, his would be the first in the state since 2006.
Convicted murderer Scott Dozier was scheduled to die by lethal injection in 2017, but his execution was delayed twice because of the drug cocktail Nevada planned to use, which included the same three drugs planned for Floyd’s injection, CNN reported at the time.
Dozier eventually died by suicide in his cell in 2019 after the delays in his execution.
State support for capital punishment may be dwindling, though – earlier this month, the Nevada Assembly voted to advance legislation that would abolish the death penalty.