US campaigners rally after botched chemical execution

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Anti-death penalty activists have seized on an execution in Florida where a prisoner took more than half an hour to die after requiring a second dose of lethal chemicals.

Witnesses said that Angel Nieves Diaz, 55, a Puerto Rican convicted of murdering a bar manager in Miami in 1979, appeared to grimace before he died. Officials said it took 34 minutes for him to be declared dead - and then only after a second dose of three chemicals.

A spokeswoman for the Florida department of corrections,said that the second dose had been required because Diaz suffered from a liver condition which altered the action of the chemicals. She told reporters: "It was not unanticipated. The metabolism of the drugs to the liver is slowed."

But Mark Elliot of the group Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, said the execution showed that the prisoner had been conscious after the administration of a supposedly lethal dose.

"Witnesses said he was moving and trying to speak," he said. "This shows that Florida has no business being in the execution business. Our system is broken from top to bottom."

In a statement, Florida governor Jeb Bush said the state had followed correct procedures. He added: "A pre-existing medical condition of the inmate was the reason the procedure took longer than recent procedures carried out this year."

Diaz's cousin told Associated Press that his family had not known that he suffered from liver disease.

In his final appeal the US Supreme Court Diaz challenged the execution chemicals saying they constituted a "cruel and unusual punishment". His appeal was rejected an hour before the execution began.

Moments before his execution, Diaz again denied the murder. There were no eyewitnesses but Diaz's girlfriend, had told police he had been involved in the killing.

The governor of Diaz's native Puerto Rico, which abolished capital punishment in 1929, had sought clemency for him.