February 26, 2014 / 2:15 PM / 6 years ago

Florida man to be executed for trooper's 1992 pipe-bomb death

TALLAHASSEE, Florida (Reuters) - A South Florida drug dealer, who was convicted in the pipe-bomb killing of a state highway patrolman during a traffic stop 22 years ago, is scheduled to die by lethal injection on Wednesday.

Paul Augustus Howell is pictured in this undated handout photo from Florida Department of Corrections obtained by Reuters February 25, 2013. REUTERS/Florida Department of Corrections/Handout via Reuters

Paul Augustus Howell, 48, had come within hours of being executed a year ago, but won a reprieve. He was sentenced to die for murder after being convicted of hiding a pipe bomb in the trunk of a car driven by another man, who was stopped for speeding by Florida Highway Patrol Trooper Jimmy Fulford in Jefferson County on February 1, 1992.

Fulford searched the car and was killed when he opened a gift-wrapped package containing a microwave oven, in which the bomb was hidden.

At Howell’s trial in Pensacola, prosecutors said he had intended to kill a Panhandle woman with the bomb because she could have implicated him and his brother in a drug-related murder.

Howell’s execution is set for 6:00 p.m. EST (0600 ET) at the Florida State Prison in Starke.

He would be the fourth death-row inmate executed in Florida with a new combination of drugs that has been challenged, so far unsuccessfully, in state courts as a violation of Eighth Amendment protection against cruel or unusual punishments.

The state began using the sedative midazolam hydrochloride last year as the first of three lethal injection chemicals, after the manufacturer of the previous knockout drug, sodium pentobarbital, stopped selling it for use in executions.

In his appeals, which were dismissed last week, Howell claimed that midazolam might not completely knock him out before the other two drugs were administered to cause paralysis and then death.

The state Department of Corrections has maintained in court that the drug fully anesthetizes prisoners so they do not suffer when the second and third drugs are injected.

Defense lawyers and capital punishment opponents have said condemned men have shown signs of movement and stress during their executions.

Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Bernadette Baum

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