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Florida death row inmate throws fit as he’s put to death

February 24, 2018  |  Posted by: Francesca Falzarano
Florida death row inmate throws fit as he’s put to death

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As the execution drugs were being administered, Eric Scott Branch belted out a blood-curdling shriek. Then he shouted “Murderers! Murderers! Murderers!” as he was put to death for the rape and killing of a college student in 1993.

The 47-year-old inmate was put to death on Thursday. After his outburst, he gave one last deep groan before he went silent. Minutes prior, he had just been speaking to corrections officers, saying it should fall to Florida Gov. Rick Scott and his attorney general to put the man to death — not to those workers that were there.

“Let them come here and do it,” Branch stated. “You’re good people, and this is not what you should be doing.”

Branch was pronounced dead just after 7 p.m. on Thursday after he was given the lethal injection at Florida State Prison in Starke, The Washington Post reported.

When Michelle Glady, a spokeswoman for the Department of Corrections, was asked whether Branch’s scream could have been caused by the drugs, she said “there was no indication” that the man’s last actions occurred because of the injection procedure.

Eric Scott Branch was found guilty of raping and fatally beating University of West Florida student 21-year-old Susan Morris. Her naked remains were discovered buried in a shallow grave — a crime whose brutality was recorded by the Florida Supreme Court after rejecting one of Branch’s appeals.

“She had been beaten, stomped, sexually assaulted and strangled. She bore bruises and lacerations, both eyes were swollen shut,” the justices stated.

Evidence in the case indicates that Branch approached Morris after she left a class on a January night in 1993, so he could carjack her Toyota and drive back to his home state of Indiana. He was busted as he was traveling there.

Branch also was found guilty of the sexual assault of a 14-year-old Indiana girl and of another sexual assault in the Florida Panhandle that occurred only just days before Morris was murdered.

At his murder trial, the jury recommended that the man receive the death penalty by a 10-2 vote under Florida’s old capital punishment policy, which was deemed unconstitutional in 2016 by the U.S. Supreme Court. The high court announced juries must reach a unanimous decision and judges cannot overrule that. Florida legislators subsequently altered the system to comply.

One of Branch’s final and unsuccessful appeals to the Supreme Court involved whether he deserved a new sentencing hearing because of that jury’s 10-2 vote in his trial back in 1994. The Florida Supreme Court has determined that the new sentencing system did not apply to prisoners who were sentenced to the death penalty before 2002.

Subsequently, Texas’ governor saved a convicted murderer’s life just before the inmate was scheduled to be put to death on Thursday for plotting the deadly shootings of his mother and brother. Governor Greg Abbott accepted the parole board’s unique clemency recommendation and changed Thomas “Bart” Whitaker’s sentence to life without the possibility of parole. Whitaker’s father also was shot in the plot at the family’s Houston home in 2003 but survived. He headed an effort to save his son from the death penalty.

Additionally, Doyle Lee Ham was sentenced to death in Alabama on Thursday for the 1987 murder of a motel employee during a robbery. Hamm challenged his sentence, arguing there was a risk of a botched execution because of damage to his veins from lymphoma and other diseases. On Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court temporarily delayed the procedure.

In Florida, family members of Susan Morris said they are still profoundly grieving by her violent homicide. Though Morris was 21 when she was murdered, more time has passed than the amount of years she lived, a family statement indicated. Nonetheless, the pain is still present.

“Twenty-five years ago, Susan’s life was suddenly and brutally extinguished. We grieved for her longer than she was with us. Because of who she was … she will never be forgotten,” the statement, read out loud by the victim’s sister Wendy Morris Hill, just after Branch was administered the lethal injection.

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