Lots of news regarding Florida’s death row in the past week or so. Here’s a roundup of what I’ve come across:
- A convicted murderer is waiting to find out whether he’ll face the death penalty again. Rodney Lowe, convicted for the 1990 murder of a store clerk in Sebastian, has already been sentenced to death once and spent 14 years on death row. His sentence was overturned in 2008 after the Florida Supreme Court ruled he should get a new sentencing hearing. But the second jury again recommended death for Lowe and he’s now waiting to find out if the judge will follow the jury’s recommendation or not. The ruling should come some time in December or early next year. Click here to read more.
- A Jacksonville man was sentenced to death Friday, October 28, for the 2009 shooting of a co-worker at a Wendy’s restaurant there. Thomas Theo Brown, 29, had an ongoing fight with Juanese Miller and two days after a verbal quarrel at the restaurant, Brown returned to work with a gun and killed Miller.
- Brown’s death sentence comes just days after another Florida death sentence. Cecil Shyron King was sentenced to death Thursday, October 27, for the murder of 82-year-old Renie Telzer-Bain. King was a lawn maintenance worker in Telzer-Bain’s neighborhood when he allegedly broke into her home in 2009 and beat her with a hammer. The jury in the case recommended a death sentence by an 8-4 vote and Judge Mallory Cooper agreed with their recommendation. See photos from the sentencing here.
- Another Florida inmate will receive a new hearing, after a divided Florida Supreme Court reversed a trial judge’s denial of an evidentiary hearing for Anthony Mungin. Mungin was convicted in the killing of a Jacksonville convenience store clerk in 1990. There were no witnesses to the crime at the initial trial. However, a new eyewitness says he was the first on the scene and Mungin was not there. The justices unanimously refused to overturn the guilty verdict because of other evidence, but they have decided to allow the hearing on the new eyewitness.
- But Matthew Caylor, another inmate on Florida’s death row, was not so lucky. The state Supreme Court upheld Caylor’s conviction and death sentence in the murder of a teenaage girl at a St. Andrew motel in 2008. Caylor appealed on several grounds, including arguing that the sentence was disproportionate to the crime and the standard appeal that the death penalty is unconstitutional. You can read more about Caylor’s appeal here.
- One of the FL death row inmates who blogs through letters, William Van Poyck, posted yesterday and part of his post was commenting on the death warrant Gov. Rick Scott signed for Oba Chandler, who will be executed later this month. I can’t speak to the accuracy of what Van Poyck says, but his comments are interesting nonetheless.
- Despite Manuel Valle’s execution taking place more than a month ago, his name keeps popping up in discussions. Most recently a column in The New York Times, Adam Liptack discusses the “lifelong death sentences” of inmates like Valle, who spent 33 years on death row. Liptack addresses some of the concerns of such lengthy sentences and looks at it from a Constitutional and historical perspective. Read what he has to say here: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/01/us/death-row-inmates-wait-years-before-execution.html?_r=1
- In this article and the accompanying video, a Florida defense attorney says it’s rare that people in Palm Beach County end up on death row. Currently there are only 8 people from Palm Beach County on death row, despite there being several cases mentioned in the piece that were eligible for the death penalty. “This county, for whatever reason, hasn’t been inclined; on the times they have been asked, the jurors haven’t been inclined to recommend the death sentence,” attorney Gregg Lerman said. State attorney Mike McAuliffe said that since January 2009, his office has sought the death penalty seven times, and in none of those cases did the jury choose to pursue a death sentence.This article is interesting because it speaks to one of the issues Harry Shorstein, the former Florida State Attorney, spoke about when I interviewed him recently. He is actually not opposed to the death penalty from a moral standpoint and has prosecuted and won several death penalty cases. But he says he has issues with the practice because of the unfair and inconsistent way it is applied. One thing he mentioned is the geographical disparity in the death penalty in Florida. In certain counties you are far more likely to get a death sentence than in others, and this bothers Shorstein and a lot of death penalty critics. It’s a great article, definitely worth a read. Check it out here: “Death Sentences in Palm Beach County ‘Rare'”