Here’s a collection of links and news blurbs about what’s happening in the past few days in news from America’s death rows:
- Manuel Valle became the first in Florida to be executed with the controversial drug pentobarbital. You can read my account of the execution here. Also, there are many other articles making the rounds right now, which I’ve linked to here:
Florida Executes Man with Pet Drug
The Multiple Injustices of Manuel Valle’s Death Penalty
Florida Execution: Drug Firm Protests To Governor Over Lethal Injection But the one I found most interesting is this one from the Herald-Tribune that addresses the high cost of death penalty cases. The author writes:
The protracted battle hiked legal costs for the public — as all death penalty cases do — and prolonged the pain endured by the victims’ loved ones. It also raised qualms because Valle, by some measures, paid for his crime twice — with what amounted to life in prison and with his death sentence.
Compared to life-term cases, those in which the death penalty is sought can cost 10 times more….The public bears that cost, both financially and in lost opportunity.
The dollars, if redirected, could fund additional police, probation and corrections officers; more labs to process large backlogs in DNA samples and evidence, accelerating crime solving; more court personnel to reduce overload; and programs to address substance abuse, which too often threatens public safety.
- Just two weeks after the Troy Davis execution in Georgia, the state has another scheduled execution for Marcus Ray Johnson. Johnson was found guilty of murdering Angela Sizemore in 1994, in a case that relied heavily, like the Troy Davis case, on eyewitness testimony. Members of Amnesty International and other advocacy groups have been calling for new DNA testing in the case after a new box of evidence that has never been examined was presented to Johnson’s defense team. Dougherty County superior court judge Willie Lockette stepped in to halt the execution just this morning and DNA testing on the evidence will probably take place by next February. Read more here.
- According to this article in the St. Petersburg Times, Florida has no plans to follow Texas’s lead and end last meal requests for death row inmates. Department of Correction spokeswoman Gretl Plessinger says, “It’s been done for as long as anyone can remember,” said Gretl Plessinger, a spokeswoman for the Department of Corrections. “There are no plans at this point to make changes.” According to the article, Plessinger said the last meal serves a dual purpose. It’s a final comfort for the condemned inmate, she said, but it also helps prison officials manage what could be a tense few hours before an execution. The end of the article also lists some notable last meals from “famous” death row inmates.
- In an interesting and candid guest column I found on the Daytona Beach News Journal’s site, former Miami-Dade Police Department captain and homicide detective Marshall Frank speaks out against the death penalty, not because of a moral objection but because Florida’s system has ground to a halt, leaving inmates like Valle sitting on death row, anticipating their execution, for decades. Frank’s perspective is not one you’d expect to hear from a former police officer, but his words are thoughtful and well researched. The column is definitely worth a read. Here’s some of what Frank had to say:
I am no bleeding heart and spent a police career putting my share of criminals in prison for dastardly crimes. But we must set a limit to “cruel and unusual punishment,” which is prohibited by the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution. Valle spent more time in prison than most inmates who are sentenced to life. And, then he was killed. He basically served a life sentence plus a death sentence all in one. Somehow, I don’t think the Founding Fathers had that in mind….
It’s time for legislators to delve into this hideous problem whereby a snails-pace appeals system stands in the way of carrying out true justice. Sure, we all want to see punishment carried out when someone commits a heinous crime. But when a killer is sentenced to death, there should be a maximum time factor requiring appeals to be filed and heard within two years, or else a sentence is automatically commuted to life….
Today, Florida houses almost 400 inmates who are awaiting execution on death row, most of whom will serve long prison sentences before their deaths are carried out. That’s not justice. That’s torture.