Florida Death Penalty

Florida’s Catholic bishops are calling for a stay in the case of John Blackwelder. He is scheduled to die Tuesday for the may 2000 murder of a fellow inmate at the Columbia Correctional Institute.

Tuesday will mark the 25th anniversary of the day Florida resumed executions, and if all goes as planned, Blackwelder will become the 59th person the state has put to death in recent years. Activists are questioning the cost effectiveness.

On May 25th 1979, John Spinkelink was put to death for murdering a drifter. It was the first non voluntary execution in the county in more than a decade and it followed a traumatic week.

Spinkelink killed another drifter in a Tallahassee hotel. He was offered a plea deal and turned it down, but in the biggest irony in this case, under evolving court rules, this murder wasn’t heinous enough to qualify for the death penalty today.

In a rare 1993 interview, one of two executioners hired by the state told us the Spinkelink execution was different because it was first and because both executioners were present.

“Because our previous training had been simulated, he turned and looked at me, and even though I am only two eyes holes in a hood, he made severe eye contact with me.”

Since 1979, 58 people including two women have been executed. Floridians for alternatives to the death penalty say the costs have been astronomical.

Using state figures, the cost of keeping all 58 alive and in prison would have been about 25 million, but Jeb Bush says it not just about money.

Officials say they did not consider the date when setting Blackwelder’s execution. While Spinkelink used every legal appeal available 25 years ago, John Blackwelder has waived all of his appeals and wants to die.