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

By Bill Cotterell

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, was executed on Wednesday, state prison officials said.

Paul Augustus Howell met with a spiritual adviser and ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in the hours before his death by lethal injection at Florida State Prison. He was pronounced dead at 6:32 p.m. EST.

Howell was sentenced to die in 1995 for the death of state trooper Jimmy Fulford. The highway patrolman opened a package in the trunk of a car that Howell had rented to take the bomb to a woman in Marianna on February 1, 1992. Fulford, 35, had stopped the car for speeding on I-10 in Jefferson County.

Fulford searched the car. He 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, 48, died one year to the day after his initial execution date. He won a reprieve last year, but recently his court challenges over use of a new sedative drug, midazolam hydrochloride, ran out, and he became the fourth condemned man executed with the state's new three-drug combination.

The state began using the sedative 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 David Adams, Colleen Jenkins and Jan Paschal)

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