The Death Penalty in Florida

Late Tuesday, Virginia's governor granted him clemency.

Florida has been at the forefront of the fight over the death penalty since the execution of John Spinkelink in 1979, but that execution would not take place under today’s legal standards.

John Spinkelink was a drifter caught in a gay lovers triangle when a companion was shot at a Tallahassee hotel and both survivors pointed the finger at each other.

On May 25, 1979 Florida strapped Spinkelink into “old sparky” and it became the first state in the country to execute someone involuntarily in a decade. Since then Florida has executed 58 men and two women.

The electric chair spewed flames twice and gave Allan Tiny Davis a nose bleed before being retired. At least 25 inmates have walked free from death row after evidence hasn’t supported their convictions former Supreme Court Justice Gerald Kogan believes others should have been freed and weren’t.

Gerald says, “We’ve made mistakes.”

The Supreme Court has changed the rules since 1979. Under today’s standards, John Spinkelink and perhaps a dozen others would never have been put to death.

Lawyers say juries are becoming more suspect of the ultimate penalty.

Larry Spalding with the ACLU says, “At one point we had over 50 death sentences handed out in one year in Florida. In the past few years, we haven’t even gotten into double digits.”

One reason being given for fewer death sentences is that Florida now offers life without chance of parole.

The standards for executions may soon change again. The state’s high court wants lawmakers to require a unanimous jury verdict to recommend death.

Currently only a majority is needed for a death recommendation.