Before his execution by lethal injection in Florida State Prison on September 28, Manuel Valle had spent 33 years on Death Row for killing Coral Gables Police Officer Louis Pena in 1978 and wounding another officer during a traffic stop. Valle was driving a stolen car and ran a red light. Officer Pena pulled him over and was subsequently shot in the neck. Valle fled, but was caught two days later.
More than three decades after being found guilty – one of the longest-serving Death Row sentences in Florida – Valle was set to die June 30. But his execution was delayed twice thanks to appeals. After the U.S. Supreme Court rejected his last-ditch petition, his execution went forward. Valle was the first Florida inmate to be executed using the sedative pentobarbital. It is the first drug administered in the state’s three-injection cocktail.
Miami Herald reporter Patricia Mazzei watched as the injections were administered. She was only a few feet from the 61-year-old Valle, who had been 27 at the time of the crime. His victim lost his life at 41. Although she recognized the heinousness of his crime, she couldn’t help feel pity for the man who now seemed submissive and meek. Reporters are supposed to be detached and dispassionate, but watching someone shut his eyes for the very last time can change your point of view.