Capital punishment in Florida
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, 90 convicted murderers have been executed by the State of Florida, all at Florida State Prison, which possesses the state's sole remaining death chamber. As of April 17, 2015, 394 inmates are awaiting execution.
- 1 Crimes punishable by death
- 2 Method of executions
- 3 Florida's response to Furman
- 4 Transition of execution methods
- 5 Clemency
- 6 Women
- 7 Controversy
- 8 Death Row Inmates - Breakdown by Race
- 9 Timely Justice Act of 2013
- 10 List of individuals executed since 1979
- 11 See also
- 12 References
- 13 External links
Crimes punishable by death
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:
- First-degree 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
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.
A total of 197 people were electrocuted from 1924 through 1964 (one Federal execution in 1948), all of whom were men. Before that, 116 were hanged between 1827 through 1923, one other (a Federal execution) hanged in 1929. 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.
Florida's response to Furman
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. 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.
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.
Transition of execution methods
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. 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. 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. Inmates, however, may still choose electrocution, though none have chosen this method since the Davis execution.
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.
Between 1925 and 1965, 57 commutations were granted out of 268 cases. Since 1979, when the death penalty was re-instituted, only six commutations have been granted, all under the administration of Governor Bob Graham.
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.
As with 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. Florida is the only US state where a simple majority of the jury (7) is required to return an advisory sentence favoring death of the convicted defendant. Alabama requires 10 jurors to return an advisory sentence of death, and in the remaining states where capital punishment is utilized, the advisory sentence must be unanimously made by all 12 jurors.
Death Row Inmates - Breakdown by Race
|Race||Number of Inmates||Percentage of Inmates||Percentage of Florida Population|
Total Inmates on Death Row: 412
Timely Justice Act of 2013
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.
List of individuals executed since 1979
|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||30 November 1983||electric chair||Donald Schmidt|
|3||Anthony Antone||26 January 1984||electric chair||Richard Cloud|
|4||Arthur Goode||5 April 1984||electric chair||Jason VerDow|
|5||James Adams||10 April 1984||electric chair||Edgar Brown|
|6||Carl Shriner||20 June 1984||electric chair||Judith Ann Carter|
|7||David Leroy Washington||13 July 1984||electric chair||Daniel Pridgen, Frank Meli, and Katrina Birk|
|8||Ernest John Dobbert, Jr.||7 September 1984||electric chair||Kelley Dobbert and Ryder Dobbert|
|9||James Dupree Henry||20 September 1984||electric chair||Zelie L. Riley|
|10||Timothy Charles Palmes||8 November 1984||electric chair||James Stone|
|11||James David Raulerson||30 January 1985||electric chair||Jacksonville, Florida Sheriff's Officer Mike Stewart|
|12||Johnny Paul Witt||4 March 1985||electric chair||Jonathan Kushner|
|13||Marvin Francois||29 May 1985||electric chair||Livingston Stocker, Henry Clayton, Randolph Holmes, Charles Stinson, Gilbert Williams, and Michael Miller|
|14||Daniel Morris Thomas||15 April 1986||electric chair||Charles Anderson|
|15||David Livingston Funchess||22 April 1986||electric chair||Anna Waldrop and Clayton Ragen|
|16||Ronald John Michael Straight||20 May 1986||electric chair||James Stone|
|17||Beauford White||28 August 1987||electric chair||Livingston Stocker, Henry Clayton, Randolph Holms, Charles Stinson, Gilbert Williams, and Michael Miller||Bob Martinez|
|18||Willie Jasper Darden||15 March 1988||electric chair||James Turman|
|19||Jeffrey Josepth Daugherty||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.||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||27 July 1990||electric chair||Carol Ward|
|24||James William Hamblen||21 September 1990||electric chair||Laureen Jean Edwards|
|25||Raymond Robert Clark||19 November 1990||electric chair||David Drake|
|26||Roy Allen Harich||24 April 1991||electric chair||Carlene Kelly||Lawton Chiles|
|27||Bobby Marion Francis||25 June 1991||electric chair||Titus Walters|
|28||Nollie Lee Martin||12 May 1992||electric chair||Patricia Greenfield|
|29||Edward Dean Kennedy||21 July 1992||electric chair||Floyd Cone, Jr. and FHP Trooper Robert McDernon, Sr.|
|30||Robert Dale Henderson, Sr.||21 April 1993||electric chair||Murray Ferderber, Dorothy Wilkerson, Ivan Barnett, Marie Barnett, and Clifford Barnett|
|31||Larry Joe Johnson||5 May 1993||electric chair||James Hadden|
|32||Michael Alan Durocher||25 August 1993||electric chair||Joshua Durocher, Grace Reed, and Candice Reed|
|33||Roy Allen Stewart||22 April 1994||electric chair||Margaret Haizlip|
|34||Bernard Bolander||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||5 December 1995||electric chair||Antonio Castillo|
|37||John Earl Bush||21 October 1996||electric chair||Frances Julia Slater|
|38||John Mills, Jr.||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||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 February 2000||lethal injection||Seminole County Sheriff's Office deputy George Pfeil|
|46||Anthony Braden Bryan||24 February 2000||lethal injection||George Wilson|
|47||Bennie Eddie Demps||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||25 August 2000||lethal injection||Melanie Rodrigues|
|50||Edward Castro||7 December 2000||lethal injection||Austin Carter Scott|
|51||Robert Dewey Glock, II||11 January 2001||lethal injection||Sharilyn Ritchie|
|52||Rigoberto Sanchez-Velasco||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||9 December 2002||lethal injection||Catherine Alexander|
|55||Amos Lee King, Jr.||26 February 2003||lethal injection||Natalie Brady|
|56||Newton Carlton Slawson||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||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|
|89||Chadwick Dewellyn Banks||13 November 2014||lethal injection||Cassandra Banks and Melody Cooper|
|90||Johnny Shane Kormondy||15 January 2015||lethal injection||Gary McAdams|
- Law of Florida
- List of wrongful convictions in the United States
- List of exonerated death row inmates
- List of United States death row inmates
- Crimes Punishable by the Death Penalty
- Timeline: 1922-1924 - A History of Corrections in Florida
- Espy files (to download at http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org
- Death Row Fact Sheet - Florida Department of Corrections
- State: The story of Old Sparky
- Death Penalty Information Center
- "Nation: At Issue: Crime and Punishment". Time. 4 June 1979.
- "Botched execution prompts more electric-chair scrutiny". CNN.
- Timeline: 1999 - A History of Corrections in Florida
- Methods of Execution
- Kathleen A. O'Shea, Women and the death penalty in the United States, 1900-1998, Greenwood Publishing Group, 1999
- "Women on Death Row". Florida Department of Corrections. Retrieved March 3, 2011.
- Executed Innocents
- Florida State Statutes §921.141 para. 3
- Code of Alabama §13A-5-46 para. (f)
- Zayas, Alexandra (March 16, 2013). "Law doesn't require unanimous jury for death sentence". TampaBay.com. Retrieved May 8, 2015.
- "National Statistics on Death Penalty and Race.". Retrieved 17 February 2014.
- "U.S. Census Quick Facts.". Retrieved 17 February 2014.
- "Rick Scott signs bill speeding up capital punishment". NaplesNews.com. Retrieved 15 June 2013.
- Florida Has Executed 56 Inmates Since 1979 - from Tampa Bay Online
- Inmate Release Information Detail - Inmate 102704. Florida Department of Corrections. Retrieved on 2008-05-29.
- Inmate Release Information Detail - Inmate 032827. Florida Department of Corrections. Retrieved on 2007-11-14.
- Inmate Release Information Detail - Inmate 102476. Florida Department of Corrections. Retrieved on 2007-11-14.
- Inmate Release Information Detail - Inmate 030970. Florida Department of Corrections. Retrieved on 2008-05-29.
- Inmate Release Information Detail - Inmate 538283. Florida Department of Corrections. Retrieved on 2008-05-29.
- Inmate Release Information Detail - Inmate 110488. Florida Department of Corrections. Retrieved on 2008-05-29.
- Inmate Release Information Detail - Inmate 093836. Florida Department of Corrections. Retrieved on 2007-11-14.
- Inmate Release Information Detail - Inmate 088795. Florida Department of Corrections. Retrieved on 2007-11-14.
- Inmate Release Information Detail - Inmate 078079. Florida Department of Corrections. Retrieved on 2007-11-14.
- Inmate Release Information Detail - Inmate 036275. Florida Department of Corrections. Retrieved on 2007-11-14.
- Inmate Release Information Detail - Inmate 119658. Florida Department of Corrections. Retrieved on 2007-11-14.
- Inmate Release Information Detail - Inmate 105314. Florida Department of Corrections. Retrieved on 2007-11-14.
- "US executes Australian widow's murderer". The Age (Melbourne). 19 October 2006.
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