Florida Leads Nation in New Death Sentences

By: Whitney Ray Email
By: Whitney Ray Email

At a time with executions nationwide are declining, Florida is leading the way in death sentences. A new report shows Florida’s 21 capital punishment sentences in 2012 are far more than any other state in the union.

But while Florida sentences more people to death, most of the state’s 400 death row inmates will die of natural causes, not lethal injection.

After spending 27 years locked up for a murder he didn’t commit, William Dillon was released from prison on DNA evidence and slated to meet Governor Rick Scott. “The night before I knew I was going to meet Governor Scott, I thought about ‘what am I going to say to him?” said Dillon.

This is what Dillon came up with: “Nice to meet you there Governor. Good thing they didn’t give me the death penalty because you wouldn’t be talking to me right now.”A sobering thought, especially when you consider that since the 70’s, 24 death row inmates in Florida have been exonerated.

The latest, just before Christmas, when Seth Penalver was freed after spending half his life behind bars.

But all the wrongful convictions haven’t deterred death row sentences in Florida, in fact we lead the nation in sentencing people to die. This year alone 21 people have been sentenced to death, compared to just 15 in Texas.

But most of those waiting to be executed in Florida will die of old age, not lethal injection. Florida may lead the nation in death sentences, but it lags behind many states in carrying out the punishment.

According to a new report, just nine states executed people in 2012, with many killing two or three times as many inmates as Florida.

Dr. Michael McCarron from the Florida Catholic Conference has fought against the imposition of death sentences for decades. “It just continues the cycle of violence and it’s just not necessary in this day and age” says McCarron.

The Florida Catholic Conference continues to fight to end capital punishment. They’re efforts will be supported in Florida by a bill to be filed by State Representative Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda for the 2013 session.

Thirty-three states still carry the death penalty, but just nine used it last year. Most death row inmates die of natural causes, not execution.

Florida has more than 400 inmates on death row, costing the state 50 million dollars a year to keep in maximum security and offer the proper legal opportunities.

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