Capital punishment in Florida

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Capital punishment is legal in the U.S. state of Florida. Florida was the first state to reintroduce the death penalty after the Supreme Court of the United States struck down all statutes in the country in the 1972 Furman v. Georgia decision, and the first to perform a post-Furman involuntary execution in 1979. The only person until then who had been executed during the post-Furman period was Gary Gilmore, who volunteered to be executed in Utah, in 1977, effectively ending the national moratorium on the death penalty which had been in effect since 1967.

Since Furman, 88 convicted murderers have been executed by the State of Florida, all at Florida State Prison, which possesses the state's sole remaining death chamber.[1] As of July 11, 2014, 394 inmates are awaiting execution.[2]

Crimes punishable by death[edit]

In the pre-Furman period, murder was not the only capital crime. People were also sentenced and executed for rape (until the end of the pre-Furman period), and in earlier years also for aiding runaway slaves.

Currently, Florida's capital crimes are:[3]

  • First-degree murder
  • Felony-murder
  • Capital drug trafficking
  • Capital sexual battery (Under Florida law, A person 18 or over who commits sexual battery or attempts to commit sexual battery on a child that injures the sexual organs of a child under 12 years of age commits a capital felony and shall be punished by the death penalty or with life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.)

Due to the Supreme Court case Coker v. Georgia in 1977, only those convicted of murder may receive the death penalty. Coker's holding however was specific in that the eighth amendment prohibited the death penalty for rape of an adult. The United States Supreme Court remained silent on the issue of death for rape of a child. The Florida Supreme Court however held that under the reasoning of Coker, death was a disproportionate penalty for rape of a child; the Court in doing so relied on the cruel or unusual punishment clause of the Florida State constitution which could have had a different meaning than the Constitution of the United States. Florida voters however approved an initiative that amended the Florida constitution to state that the prohibition of cruel and unusual punishments found in the Constitution of the state of Florida has the same meaning and effect as the eighth amendment to the Constitution of the United States. In 2008, the United States Supreme Court in Kennedy v. Louisiana limited the death penalty to only crimes which result in an individual's death, crimes against the state (i.e. espionage, treason) or drug trafficking, relying on the Eighth Amendment in parallel with the ultimate holding of the Florida Supreme Court.

Method of executions[edit]

New electric chair installed in 1999 at the Florida State Prison in Starke, Florida.

Florida used public hanging under a local jurisdiction, overseen and performed by the sheriffs of the counties where the crimes took place. However, in 1923, the Florida Legislature passed a law replacing hanging with the electric chair and stated that all future execution will be performed under a state jurisdiction inside prisons.[4][5]

A total of 223 people were electrocuted through 1964,[6] all of whom were men. Before that, 117 were hanged. In addition, 44 were electrocuted after 1979.

Until 1941, sheriffs of the counties where the crimes were committed would perform the executions. Later, a black-hooded executioner, a private citizen who is paid $150 per execution, took over. This gave anonymity to the actual executioner.[7][8]

Florida's response to Furman[edit]

Florida performed its last pre-Furman execution in 1964 (Sie Dawson). After the Supreme Court of the United States struck down all states' death penalty procedures in the Furman v. Georgia ruling, essentially ruling the imposition of the death penalty at the same time as a guilty verdict unconstitutional, Florida was the first state to draft a newly written statute on 12 August 1972.[9] This statute mandates a separate penalty phase in cases where prosecutors seek the death penalty. Due to the Furman ruling, the death sentences of 95 men and one woman were commuted.[7]

Today, the only death chamber in Florida is located at Florida State Prison in Raiford. When sentenced, male convicts who receive the death penalty are incarcerated at either Florida State Prison itself, or at Union Correctional Institution next door to Florida State Prison, while female convicts who are sentenced to death are incarcerated at Lowell Correctional Institution north of Ocala. Inmates are moved to the Death Row at Florida State Prison when their death warrant is signed.

Florida performed the first involuntary execution after the Supreme Court, in the 1976 case Gregg v. Georgia, permitted the death penalty once more. John Arthur Spenkelink was electrocuted on May 25, 1979.[10]

Transition of execution methods[edit]

The electric chair became a subject of strong controversy in the 1990s after three executions received considerable media attention and were labeled as "botched" by opponents (Jesse Tafero in 1990, Pedro Medina in 1997, and Allen Lee Davis in 1999). While most states switched to the lethal injection, many politicians in Florida opposed giving up "Old Sparky", seeing it as a deterrent.[8][11] After Medina's execution, in a unanimous vote the Florida Senate chose to keep the chair, and the Florida House of Representatives agreed with only a few opposing votes, despite Governor Lawton Chiles and Attorney General Bob Butterworth suggestions to introduce injection.[12] Lethal injection became a backup method if the electric chair were ever to be found unconstitutional.

Finally, after the Davis execution, lethal injection was enabled and became the default method.[13] Inmates, however, may still choose electrocution,[14] though none have chosen this method since the Davis execution.

Clemency[edit]

The Governor of Florida has the right to commute the death penalty, but only with positive recommendation of clemency from a Board, where he or she sits.[15]

Between 1925 and 1965, 57 commutations were granted out of 268 cases.[16] Since 1979, when the death penalty was re-instituted, only six commutations have been granted, all under the administration of Governor Bob Graham.[15]

Women[edit]

Two women have been executed in Florida, both post-Furman. The first to be executed was Judy Buenoano, executed in 1998 for killing, at different times, her husband (1971) and son (1980). The second was Aileen Wuornos, a serial killer who was executed in 2002 for seven murders committed in 1989 and 1990.[17]

Controversy[edit]

Like many other states with capital punishment, there is concern about the execution of innocent persons, especially since the advent of DNA-based evidence has made it possible to re-examine evidence in older cases with blood and tissue evidence still intact. Some believe that Jesse Tafero, Leo Jones, and Pedro Medina may have been wrongly executed, but their cases were not re-examined prior to their executions.[18] Florida is also the only US state where a simple majority of the jury (7) can sentence a defendant to death[citation needed], while in Alabama 10 votes are necessary, and in the rest of the death-penalty states, the decision must be unanimously made by all 12 jurors.

Death Row Inmates - Breakdown by Race[edit]

Race Number of Inmates[19] Percentage of Inmates[20] Percentage of Florida Population[21]
Black 152 36.9% 16.6%
White 223 54.1% 57.0%
Latino 34 8.3% 23.2%
Native American 1 0.2% 0.5%
Asian 2 0.5% 2.7%

Total Inmates on Death Row: 412

Timely Justice Act of 2013[edit]

On June 14, 2013, Governor Rick Scott signed the Timely Justice Act of 2013. The law is designed to overhaul and speed up the capital punishment process. It creates tighter time frames for a person sentenced to death to make appeals and post-conviction motions and imposes reporting requirements on case progress.[22]

List of individuals executed since 1979[edit]

No. Executed person Date of execution Method Victim(s) Under Governor
1 John Arthur Spenkelink 25 May 1979 electric chair Joseph J. Szymnkiewicz Bob Graham
2 Robert Austin Sullivan[23] 30 November 1983 electric chair Donald Schmidt
3 Anthony Antone[23] 26 January 1984 electric chair Richard Cloud
4 Arthur Goode[23] 5 April 1984 electric chair Jason VerDow
5 James Adams[23] 10 April 1984 electric chair Edgar Brown
6 Carl Shriner[23] 20 June 1984 electric chair Judith Ann Carter
7 David Leroy Washington[23] 13 July 1984 electric chair Daniel Pridgen, Frank Meli, and Katrina Birk
8 Ernest John Dobbert, Jr.[23] 7 September 1984 electric chair Kelley Dobbert and Ryder Dobbert
9 James Dupree Henry[23] 20 September 1984 electric chair Zelie L. Riley
10 Timothy Charles Palmes[23] 8 November 1984 electric chair James Stone
11 James David Raulerson[23] 30 January 1985 electric chair Jacksonville, Florida Sheriff's Officer Mike Stewart
12 Johnny Paul Witt[23] 4 March 1985 electric chair Jonathan Kushner
13 Marvin Francois[23] 29 May 1985 electric chair Livingston Stocker, Henry Clayton, Randolph Holmes, Charles Stinson, Gilbert Williams, and Michael Miller
14 Daniel Morris Thomas[23] 15 April 1986 electric chair Charles Anderson
15 David Livingston Funchess[23] 22 April 1986 electric chair Anna Waldrop and Clayton Ragen
16 Ronald John Michael Straight[23] 20 May 1986 electric chair James Stone
17 Beauford White[23] 28 August 1987 electric chair Livingston Stocker, Henry Clayton, Randolph Holms, Charles Stinson, Gilbert Williams, and Michael Miller Bob Martinez
18 Willie Jasper Darden[23] 15 March 1988 electric chair James Turman
19 Jeffrey Josepth Daugherty[23] 7 November 1988 electric chair Lavonne Sailer, Betty Campbell, Carmen Abrams, and Elizabeth Shanks
20 Ted Bundy 24 January 1989 electric chair Kimberly Leach, Lisa Levy, Margaret Bowman, and others
21 Aubrey Dennis Adams, Jr.[23] 4 May 1989 electric chair Trisa Gail Thomley
22 Jesse Tafero 4 May 1990 electric chair FHP Trooper Phillip Black and OPP Constable Donald Irwin
23 Anthony Bertolotti[23] 27 July 1990 electric chair Carol Ward
24 James William Hamblen[23] 21 September 1990 electric chair Laureen Jean Edwards
25 Raymond Robert Clark[23] 19 November 1990 electric chair David Drake
26 Roy Allen Harich[23] 24 April 1991 electric chair Carlene Kelly Lawton Chiles
27 Bobby Marion Francis[23] 25 June 1991 electric chair Titus Walters
28 Nollie Lee Martin[23] 12 May 1992 electric chair Patricia Greenfield
29 Edward Dean Kennedy[23] 21 July 1992 electric chair Floyd Cone, Jr. and FHP Trooper Robert McDernon, Sr.
30 Robert Dale Henderson, Sr.[23] 21 April 1993 electric chair Murray Ferderber, Dorothy Wilkerson, Ivan Barnett, Marie Barnett, and Clifford Barnett
31 Larry Joe Johnson[23] 5 May 1993 electric chair James Hadden
32 Michael Alan Durocher[23] 25 August 1993 electric chair Joshua Durocher, Grace Reed, and Candice Reed
33 Roy Allen Stewart[23] 22 April 1994 electric chair Margaret Haizlip
34 Bernard Bolander[23] 18 July 1995 electric chair Rudolfi Ayan, Sr., Nico Hernandez, John Merino, and Scott Bennett
35 Jerry White 4 December 1995 electric chair James Melson
36 Philip Alexander Atkins[23] 5 December 1995 electric chair Antonio Castillo
37 John Earl Bush[23] 21 October 1996 electric chair Frances Julia Slater
38 John Mills, Jr.[23] 6 December 1996 electric chair Les Lawhon
39 Pedro Medina 25 March 1997 electric chair Dorothy James
40 Gerald Eugene Stano 23 March 1998 electric chair Cathy Lee Scharf
41 Leo Alexander Jones 24 March 1998 electric chair Jacksonville, Florida Sheriff's Officer Thomas Szarfranski
42 Judy Buenoano 30 March 1998 electric chair James Goodyear
43 Daniel Eugene Remeta[23][24] 31 March 1998 electric chair Mearle Reeder, Linda Marvin, Larry McFarland, and Glenn Moore
44 Allen Lee Davis 8 July 1999 electric chair Nancy Weiler, Kristina Weiler, and Katherine Weiler Jeb Bush
45 Terry Melvin Sims[23][25] 23 February 2000 lethal injection Seminole County Sheriff's Office deputy George Pfeil
46 Anthony Braden Bryan[23][26] 24 February 2000 lethal injection George Wilson
47 Bennie Eddie Demps[23][27] 7 June 2000 lethal injection Alfred Sturgis, Celia Puhlick, and R.N. Brinkworth
48 Thomas Harrison Provenzano 21 June 2000 lethal injection Deputy Sheriff William Wilkerson, Deputy Sheriff Harry Dalton (died in 1991), Corrections Officer Mark Parker (died in 2009)
49 Dan Patrick Hauser[23][28] 25 August 2000 lethal injection Melanie Rodrigues
50 Edward Castro[23][29] 7 December 2000 lethal injection Austin Carter Scott
51 Robert Dewey Glock, II[23][30] 11 January 2001 lethal injection Sharilyn Ritchie
52 Rigoberto Sanchez-Velasco[23][31] 2 October 2002 lethal injection Katixa Ecenarro
53 Aileen Carol Wuornos 9 October 2002 lethal injection Richard Mallory, Dick Humphreys, Charles Carskaddon, Troy Burress, Peter Siems, Walter Jeno Antonio, and David Spears
54 Linroy Bottoson[23][32] 9 December 2002 lethal injection Catherine Alexander
55 Amos Lee King, Jr.[23][33] 26 February 2003 lethal injection Natalie Brady
56 Newton Carlton Slawson[23][34] 16 May 2003 lethal injection Gerald Wood, Peggy Wood, Jennifer Wood, and Glendon Wood
57 Paul Jennings Hill 3 September 2003 lethal injection John Bayard Britton and James Herman Barrett
58 Johnny Leartice Robinson 4 February 2004 lethal injection Beverly St. George
59 John Richard Blackwelder 26 May 2004 lethal injection Raymond D. Wigley
60 Glen James Ocha 5 April 2005 lethal injection Carol Skjerva
61 Clarence Edward Hill 20 September 2006 lethal injection Pensacola, Florida police officer Stephen Taylor
62 Arthur Dennis Rutherford[35][36] 19 October 2006 lethal injection Stella Salamon
63 Danny Harold Rolling 25 October 2006 lethal injection Sonja Larson, Christina Powell, Christa Hoyt, Manuel R. Taboada, and Tracy Inez Paules
64 Ángel Nieves Díaz 13 December 2006 lethal injection Joseph Nagy
65 Mark Dean Schwab 1 July 2008 lethal injection Junny Rios-Martinez, Jr. Charlie Crist
66 Richard Henyard 23 September 2008 lethal injection Jamilya and Jasmine Lewis
67 Wayne Tompkins 11 February 2009 lethal injection Lisa DeCarr
68 John Richard Marek 19 August 2009 lethal injection Adella Marie Simmons
69 Martin Edward Grossman 16 February 2010 lethal injection Wildlife Officer Margaret "Peggy" Park
70 Manuel Valle 28 September 2011 lethal injection Police officer Louis Pena Rick Scott
71 Oba Chandler 15 November 2011 lethal injection Joan Rogers, Michelle Rogers and Christe Rogers
72 Robert Brian Waterhouse 15 February 2012 lethal injection Deborah Kammerer
73 David Alan Gore 12 April 2012 lethal injection Lynn Elliot, Hsiang Huang Ling, Ying Hua Ling, Judy Kay Daley, Angelica LaVellee, and Barbara Ann Byer
74 Manuel Pardo, Jr. 11 December 2012 lethal injection Mario Amador, Roberto Alfonso, Luis Robledo, Ulpiano Ledo, Michael Millot, Fara Quintero, Sara Musa, Ramon Alvero Cruz and Daisy Ricard
75 Larry Eugene Mann 10 April 2013 lethal injection Elisa Vera Nelson
76 Elmer Leon Carroll 29 May 2013 lethal injection Christine McGowan
77 William Edward Van Poyck 12 June 2013 lethal injection Florida Department of Corrections officer Fred Griffis
78 John Errol Ferguson 5 August 2013 lethal injection Brian Glenfeldt, Belinda Worley, Livingstone Stocker, Michael Miller, Henry Clayton, John Holmes, Gilbert Williams, and Charles Cesar Stinson
79 Marshall Lee Gore 1 October 2013 lethal injection Robyn Novick (also killed Susan Roark but was executed for killing Novick)
80 William Frederick Happ 15 October 2013 lethal injection Angela Crowley
81 Darius Mark Kimbrough 12 November 2013 lethal injection Denise Collins
82 Thomas Knight (Askari Abdullah Muhammad) 7 January 2014 lethal injection Sydney and Lillian Gans, Florida Department of Corrections officer Richard Burke
83 Juan Carlos Chavez 12 February 2014 lethal injection Jimmy Ryce
84 Paul Augustus Howell 26 February 2014 lethal injection Florida Highway Patrol Trooper Jimmy Fulford
85 Robert Lavern Henry 20 March 2014 lethal injection Phyllis Harris and Janet Cox Thermidor
86 Robert Eugene Hendrix 23 April 2014 lethal injection Elmer Bryant Scott Jr., Michelle Scott
87 John Ruthell Henry 18 June 2014 lethal injection Suzanne Henry and Eugene Christian
88 Eddie Wayne Davis 10 July 2014 lethal injection Kimberly Waters

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ http://www.dc.state.fl.us/oth/deathrow/execlist.html
  2. ^ http://www.dc.state.fl.us/activeinmates/deathrowroster.asp
  3. ^ Crimes Punishable by the Death Penalty
  4. ^ Timeline: 1922-1924 - A History of Corrections in Florida
  5. ^ Espy files (to download at http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org
  6. ^ Regional Studies The South[dead link]
  7. ^ a b Death Row Fact Sheet - Florida Department of Corrections
  8. ^ a b State: The story of Old Sparky
  9. ^ Death Penalty Information Center
  10. ^ "Nation: At Issue: Crime and Punishment". Time. 4 June 1979. 
  11. ^ http://scholar.lib.vt.edu/VA-news/VA-Pilot/issues/1997/vp970412/04120007.htm
  12. ^ "Botched execution prompts more electric-chair scrutiny". CNN. 
  13. ^ Timeline: 1999 - A History of Corrections in Florida
  14. ^ Methods of Execution
  15. ^ a b Clemency
  16. ^ Kathleen A. O'Shea, Women and the death penalty in the United States, 1900-1998, Greenwood Publishing Group, 1999
  17. ^ "Women on Death Row". Florida Department of Corrections. Retrieved March 3, 2011. 
  18. ^ Executed Innocents
  19. ^ "National Statistics on Death Penalty and Race.". Retrieved 17 February 2014. 
  20. ^ "National Statistics on Death Penalty and Race.". Retrieved 17 February 2014. 
  21. ^ "U.S. Census Quick Facts.". Retrieved 17 February 2014. 
  22. ^ "Rick Scott signs bill speeding up capital punishment". NaplesNews.com. Retrieved 15 June 2013. 
  23. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al am an ao ap aq ar as Florida Has Executed 56 Inmates Since 1979 - from Tampa Bay Online
  24. ^ Inmate Release Information Detail - Inmate 102704. Florida Department of Corrections. Retrieved on 2008-05-29.
  25. ^ Inmate Release Information Detail - Inmate 032827. Florida Department of Corrections. Retrieved on 2007-11-14.
  26. ^ Inmate Release Information Detail - Inmate 102476. Florida Department of Corrections. Retrieved on 2007-11-14.
  27. ^ Inmate Release Information Detail - Inmate 030970. Florida Department of Corrections. Retrieved on 2008-05-29.
  28. ^ Inmate Release Information Detail - Inmate 538283. Florida Department of Corrections. Retrieved on 2008-05-29.
  29. ^ Inmate Release Information Detail - Inmate 110488. Florida Department of Corrections. Retrieved on 2008-05-29.
  30. ^ Inmate Release Information Detail - Inmate 093836. Florida Department of Corrections. Retrieved on 2007-11-14.
  31. ^ Inmate Release Information Detail - Inmate 088795. Florida Department of Corrections. Retrieved on 2007-11-14.
  32. ^ Inmate Release Information Detail - Inmate 078079. Florida Department of Corrections. Retrieved on 2007-11-14.
  33. ^ Inmate Release Information Detail - Inmate 036275. Florida Department of Corrections. Retrieved on 2007-11-14.
  34. ^ Inmate Release Information Detail - Inmate 119658. Florida Department of Corrections. Retrieved on 2007-11-14.
  35. ^ Inmate Release Information Detail - Inmate 105314. Florida Department of Corrections. Retrieved on 2007-11-14.
  36. ^ "US executes Australian widow's murderer". The Age (Melbourne). 19 October 2006. 

External links[edit]