« New wing in Virginia prison just for veterans | Main | Noting one of many echo effects of California's new sentencing law »

December 28, 2012

Is Florida becoming, in place of Texas, the new capital for capital punishment in the US?

The question in the title of this post is prompted by this recent local article, which is headlined "Report: Florida leads nation in new death penalty case."  Here are excerpts:

As capital punishment declines in use and support nationwide, Florida leads the country in the number of death sentences handed down this year, according to a report by a group that advocates against the death penalty.

Florida judges sentenced 21 killers to death in 2012, followed by California with death sentences for 14 murderers, Texas with 9 and Pennsylvania with seven, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.  The four states accounted for 65 percent of the death sentences handed out in the United States....

Hillsborough State Attorney Mark Ober said seeking capital punishment is a scrupulous process. "We understand the consequences of these decisions," Ober said....

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, in a written statement to The Tampa Tribune, defended the state's use of the death penalty.  "As attorney general and a former prosecutor, I firmly believe the death penalty is the appropriate sentence for those convicted of the most heinous murders," Bondi said.  "Thanks to Florida's dedicated prosecutors, the most atrocious murderers are on death row, where they belong, for violently taking innocent lives."...

Ober's office, like most state attorney's offices in Florida, has a committee that measures cases against specific legal criteria in determining whether a death sentence should be pursued in court.

But in West Palm Beach, State Attorney Peter Antonacci, appointed to the post in March, seeks the death penalty in all first-degree murder cases, according to a report in the Palm Beach Post. The process has doubled the number of death penalty cases there and outraged defense attorneys.

Florida executed three killers this year, well behind Texas, which led the nation in that category with 15 executions.  Florida has the second highest population of death-row inmates, with 406, behind California's death row with 724 inmates, according to the report.  Texas has 308 inmates on death row, the report says.

According to information from the Florida Department of Corrections, the average stay on death row is 13.22 years prior to execution, with a little more than 14 years between the date of offense and execution. The average age of executed inmates is 44.4 years old.

With so many more death sentences now being handed out in Florida as compared to Texas, and with a death row in Florida now 25% bigger than in Texas, Florida perhaps should now be viewed as an even tougher state than Texas when it comes to application of capital punishment. That said, Texas remains far ahead of all other states in total and yearly numbers of executions, which is perhaps a more critical metric for assessing a state's affinity for and pursuit of the death penalty for certain murders.

December 28, 2012 at 11:19 PM | Permalink

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d83451574769e2017c35112bd6970b

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Is Florida becoming, in place of Texas, the new capital for capital punishment in the US?:

Comments

/ "Thanks to Florida's dedicated prosecutors, the most atrocious murderers are on death row, where they belong, for violently taking innocent lives."... /

Good start, now let's carry out the sentences.

{[("Florida executed three killers this year")]}

Posted by: Adamakis | Dec 28, 2012 10:02:45 AM

// "But in West Palm Beach, State Attorney Peter Antonacci, appointed to the post in March, seeks the death penalty
in all first-degree murder cases
...and [has] outraged defense attorneys." //

A distant in-law of mine in Va. is a capital defense counsel. When work has him either outraged or depressed,
it means that justice has been served to a muh-derer in the Old Dominion.

Posted by: Adamakis | Dec 28, 2012 10:06:57 AM

"Texas remains far ahead of all other states in total and yearly numbers of executions, which is perhaps a more critical metric for assessing a state's affinity for and pursuit of the death penalty for certain murders."

Any metric that does not take into account the size of the state is essentially meaningless.

It's been a while since I tallied the numbers, but last time I did Texas was about average in death penalties per thousand murders, contrary to its reputation.

Don't mess with Delaware.

Posted by: Kent Scheidegger | Dec 28, 2012 12:38:51 PM

Currently the top three states for execution by population is:
1. Oklahoma
2. Texas
3. Delaware
4. Virginia
5. Missouri
...
16. Florida

Posted by: MikeinCT | Dec 28, 2012 3:38:38 PM

I don't know how many 1st degree murder cases there are in WPB, but I predict that the docket will not sustain prosecution of every 1st degree case as a death penalty case. Also, since there are other criteria for the death penalty than simply whether the charge is 1st degree murder, there would seem to be ethical questions with a blanket rule that all 1st degree cases will be prosecuted as death penalty cases.

Posted by: Stanley Feldman | Dec 28, 2012 4:11:35 PM

Mike, do you have current numbers for sentences imposed, rather than sentences carried out? (As noted previously, mine are a bit dated.)

Posted by: Kent Scheidegger | Dec 28, 2012 4:35:44 PM

Florida continues to sentence people to death, but the inmates just sit there because of years of inaction by the Executive branches. There are about 70 inmates who have been through state and federal court appeals and are on a list for the Governor to select from. Having 2-3 executions a year isn't going to have any affect.

The real question is how many of those 21 inmates sentenced to die in 2012 got less than unanimous verdicts from the jury and probably would not have been put on death row in other states.

Posted by: DaveP | Dec 28, 2012 6:28:57 PM

I suggest amending the statute to have the execution date set by the trial court on the motion of the prosecuting attorney. There is no need to have the governor involved. See, e.g., Cal. Penal Code sec. 1227.

Posted by: Kent Scheidegger | Dec 28, 2012 7:18:32 PM

Kent
As I have posted before, I have discussed this exact issue with former Gov Bush over 10 years ago and AG McCollum when he was running for Governor and didn't get anywhere.
A fellow blogger spoke to a Florida state representative a few months ago about this and he invited him to come to his office after the election to discuss it. I will have to contact him to see if anything happened.

Posted by: DaveP | Dec 28, 2012 8:06:39 PM

i'm with Kent and DaveP i think it should be automatic after a certain amount of time to allow for any appeals. Absent an active appeal in the court system at "X" days you go on the list and any execution on the "list" must occur within 60 days.

Posted by: rodsmith | Dec 28, 2012 9:47:24 PM

Years ago in Florida, a warrant was signed by the Governor after certiorari was denied by the Supreme Court. For the past 8 years or so, this has not been done which has resulted in the huge backlog.

Posted by: DaveP | Dec 28, 2012 9:59:30 PM

@Kent
I noticed the first three on my own but the rest comes from deathpenaltyinfo.com and I believe they have a per capita list of death sentences as well. There very skewed towards abolition but they are reasonably honest and thorough.

Posted by: MikeinCT | Dec 28, 2012 11:38:16 PM

I think it would. But I'm also just realizing that I maybe already have enough fun in my life!

Posted by: gw2 gold | Feb 16, 2013 7:11:59 PM

Post a comment

In the body of your email, please indicate if you are a professor, student, prosecutor, defense attorney, etc. so I can gain a sense of who is reading my blog. Thank you, DAB