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VALLE v. SINGER (2011)

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United States Court of Appeals,Eleventh Circuit.

Manuel VALLE, Plaintiff–Appellant, v. Steven SINGER, in his official capacity as the Warden of Florida State Prison, Timothy Cannon, in his official capacity as the Execution Team Leader, Edwin Buss, in his official capacity as the Secretary, Florida Department of Corrections, Unknown Executioners, Defendants–Appellees.

No. 11–13891.

Decided: September 07, 2011

Before CARNES, HULL and WILSON, Circuit Judges. Paul Edward Kalil, Suzanne Myers Keffer, Capital Collateral Regional Counsel–South, Fort Lauderdale, FL, for Plaintiff–Appellant. Sandra Sue Jaggard, Office of the Attorney General, Miami, FL, for Defendants–Appellees.

Manuel Valle is a death row prisoner who is scheduled to be executed by the State of Florida. The State originally scheduled his execution by lethal injection for August 2, 2011. The Florida Supreme Court granted a stay to allow a Florida circuit court to determine whether the State's use of an altered lethal injection protocol—one that substituted pentobarbital for sodium thiopental in its three-drug execution cocktail—violates the Eighth Amendment. Following an evidentiary hearing, the circuit court denied relief. The Florida Supreme Court affirmed, lifting its previously issued stay. Valle's execution was rescheduled for September 6, 2011; this Court's temporary stay expires September 8, 2011 at 7:00 pm.

Valle also brought suit in federal district court. He filed a complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and a motion for a temporary restraining order (“TRO”) and preliminary injunction and to stay his execution. On August 9, the district court denied his motion, concluding, inter alia, that Valle failed to demonstrate a substantial likelihood of success on the merits of his Eighth Amendment claim—a prerequisite for injunctive relief.1 Valle appeals that decision and also asks this Court to enter a stay of execution so that he can obtain a merits ruling on his complaint. He concedes that this Court's recent decisions rejected similar challenges. Valle seeks to distinguish those cases—allowing Georgia and Alabama to proceed with executions using pentobarbital instead of sodium thiopental—because he alleges that Florida, unlike Georgia and Alabama, has a history of problems with properly effecting executions.2

“A stay of execution is equitable relief which this Court may grant only if the moving party shows that: (1) he has a substantial likelihood of success on the merits; (2) he will suffer irreparable injury unless the injunction issues; (3) the stay would not substantially harm the other litigant; and (4) if issued, the injunction would not be adverse to the public interest.” DeYoung v. Owens, 646 F.3d 1319, 1324 (11th Cir.2011) (internal quotation marks omitted). “We review the district court's denial of [defendant's] motions for a TRO and stay of execution for abuse of discretion.” Id. at 1324 n. 2.

“To state an Eighth Amendment claim, [the defendant] must demonstrate that (1) the State is being deliberately indifferent (2) to a condition that poses a substantial risk of serious harm to him. In the lethal injection context, this standard requires an inmate to show an objectively intolerable risk of harm that prevents prison officials from pleading that they were subjectively blameless for purposes of the Eighth Amendment.” Id. at 1325 (internal quotations marks and citations omitted).

We conclude that Valle has not demonstrated that he has a substantial likelihood of success on the merits of his Eighth Amendment claim for the reasons set out in Part C.1 of the district court's thorough and well-reasoned discussion of the lethal injection issue. We adopt that part of the district court's opinion as our own. For the convenience of the reader, we reproduce that part of the opinion, as well as some introductory parts of it, as an appendix to this one.3

Because Valle has failed to show a substantial likelihood of success on the merits, we need not address the other three requirements for issuance of a stay of execution. See DeYoung, 646 F.3d at 1328 (“DeYoung has not demonstrated a substantial likelihood of success on the merits of his claims. Therefore, the Court denies DeYoung's motion for a stay of execution in this Court.”); Parker v. State Bd. of Pardons and Paroles, 275 F.3d 1032, 1035 (11th Cir.2001) (holding that death row inmate who failed to establish substantial likelihood of success on merits of his clemency claims was not entitled to temporary restraining order, preliminary injunction, or stay of execution).

For the foregoing reasons, we conclude that Valle does not satisfy the first requirement for the issuance of a stay of execution, and thus we deny Valle's motion.4



1.  Valle also filed a second motion for a temporary restraining order seeking to delay his execution. The district court noted that, except for the procedural history, the motion was virtually identical to the first motion. Therefore, it denied the second motion for the same reasons stated in the previous order.

2.  Valle notes in his brief that his complaint before the district court raised four separate claims. His filing in this court, however, focuses exclusively on the Eighth Amendment claim. Accordingly, we do the same.

3.  The appendix is part of the district court's order but with the district court's Westlaw citations updated to the Federal Reporter and all quotations checked for accuracy.

4.  Based on the same rationale, we conclude that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying Valle's motion for a stay of execution.


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