(AP) – As the execution drugs were being administered, inmate Eric Scott Branch let out a blood-curdling scream.
Then he yelled “Murderers! Murderers! Murderers!” as he thrashed on a gurney as he was being put to death for the 1993 rape and slaying of a college student.
The drugs included a powerful sedative Thursday evening and the 47-year-old inmate, following the outburst, gave a last guttural groan and turned silent. Minutes earlier, he had just been addressing corrections officers, saying it should fall to Florida Gov. Rick Scott and his attorney general to carry out the death sentence — not to those workers present.
“Let them come down here and do it,” Branch said. “I’ve learned that you’re good people and this is not what you should be doing.”
Branch was pronounced dead at 7:05 p.m. Thursday after receiving the injection at Florida State Prison in Starke. The governor’s office made the announcement.
Asked later whether Branch’s scream could have been caused by the execution drugs, Department of Corrections spokeswoman Michelle Glady said “there was no indication” that the inmate’s last actions were a result of the injection procedure. She said that conclusion had been confirmed by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
Branch was convicted of raping and fatally beating University of West Florida student Susan Morris, 21. Her naked body was found buried in a shallow grave — a crime whose brutality was noted by the Florida Supreme Court in denying one of Branch’s appeals.
“She had been beaten, stomped, sexually assaulted and strangled. She bore numerous bruises and lacerations, both eyes were swollen shut,” the justices wrote.
Evidence in the case shows Branch approached Morris after she left a night class on Jan. 11, 1993, so he could steal her red Toyota and return to his home state of Indiana. He was arrested while traveling there.
Branch also was convicted of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl in Indiana and of another sexual assault in the Florida Panhandle that took place just 10 days before Morris was killed, court records show.