Death Penalty - States

This week in Florida, there were two major events involving capital punishment in the Sunshine State.

1.  Asay Execution With Etomidate

First, the execution of Florida Death Row inmate Mark James Asay was carried out on August 24, 2017.

This was the first execution by the State of Florida in over 19 months.  Executions have been on hold in Florida after the SCOTUS decision in Hurst ruled the Florida capital punishment statute unconstitutional.

It was also the first execution to use a new three-drug lethal injection protocol, as the Asay execution involved the use of the drug etomidate.

2.  Lack of Unanimity Denies State the Death Penalty in Kendrick Silver Trial

This week, the capital murder trial of Kendrick Silver when to a jury in Miami.  And because one single juror could not agree that Silver should be executed for his crimes, there can be no death penalty in his case.

This is the first death penalty case that has been tried to completion in Miami since the new Florida death penalty law was passed by the Florida Legislature  earlier this year.  

The new statute had to be passed into law because of the SCOTUS decision in Hurst.  

Under the new law, which requires all the jurors agree on the death penalty as the appropriate sentence, the power of a single juror is great.  As is shown in this case, where the hold-out juror found that there were sufficient mitigating circumstances to shield the defendant from death.

Foe more on mitigation in a death penalty case, read:

 

More on Florida Death Row Than Any Other State Except California

According to new research compilations by the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics, we know that Florida remains number two in the country for the number of people setting on its Death Row.  

Only California has more Death Row residents.  Source: Bureau of Justice Statistics May 2017.

 

 We also learn the following, as of December 31, 2015:

  • 33 states and the BOP held 2,881 inmates under sentence of death, 61 fewer than at year-end 2014. This was the fifteenth consecutive year in which the number of inmates under sentence of death decreased. 
  • Fourteen states and BOP received 49 inmates under sentence of death.
  • Six states executed 28 inmates.
  • Twenty-one states removed 82 inmates from under sentence of death by means other than execution.
  • Overall, 20 states held fewer inmates under sentence of death than a year earlier, 5 states and BOP held more inmates, and 9 held the same number.
  • The largest decline in inmates under sentence of death occurred in Texas (down 17), followed by Georgia (down 8), and Missouri (down 7).

 

As shocking as this may be, news reports are that the State of Arkansas will execute eight Death Row inmates next month, over the course of ten days. 

8 Executions Over 10 Days; Two at at Time

That’s almost one execution a day, right? Well, yes.  Except reports are that the executions are planned to occur two at a time.  That’s right: Arkansas will execute these men in pairs, two executions on the same day.

Lethal Injection Protocols In Question: What About The Drugs?

All these executions will be by lethal injection. 

Reports are that the state does not have all the proper drugs for the lethal injections.  This has not prevented the executions from being scheduled.

Will they be carried out? Will a federal court stop them?

And why now?  Arkansas has not executed anyone for TWELVE YEARS.

ACADP Tracking Efforts to Stop April Executions

For more information, including the fight to stop this mass execution next month, visit the web site of the Arkansas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (ACADP).

Governor Rick Scott signed into law SB280 earlier this week.

The bill had been unanimously approved by the Florida Senate and only three lawmakers in the Florida House of Representatives voted against it.

New Florida Death Penalty Law

What does the law provide? Now, in the State of Florida, juries in capital cases will all have to agree on the death penalty. Florida now requires unanimous juries in capital cases.

For more information, check out our earlier post that includes the full text of SB280 and its legislative progress:

Florida Legislature Moves to Pass New Laws for Death Penalty Procedure.

This week, in two opinions published by the Florida Supreme Court , it appears that the government got the green light to continue with death penalty cases.

For discussion, check out Sentencing Law and Policy and Fox35.  Many are still digesting what all these cases mean ….

Florida Supreme Court Rules Death Penalty Cases Can Move Forward

Here are the Florida Supreme Court opinions, provided for your convenience in the Terry Lenamon Online Library:

https://www.scribd.com/embeds/340148396/content?start_page=1&view_mode=scroll&access_key=key-skfIKEBpRRiUVVs1R1Al&show_recommendations=true

Right now, the 2017 Florida Legislative Session is likely to pass new legislation to help prosecutors get the death penalty back in action.  Here is what is happening up in Tallahassee:

Florida Senate SB280

In Florida, SB 280 is proceeding through the Florida Senate having made its way out of its first committee earlier this month with unanimous approval.  Next stop:  the Senate Rules Committee, where it is scheduled on the calendar for February 22, 2017, at 3:30 PM. 

SB 280, if passed into law, will require Florida juries in capital cases to have 100% juror approval of the death penalty before capital punishment could be recommended.  The judge would still be responsible for sentencing itself. 

Follow Florida Senate Bill 280 here. 

Florida House of Representatives HB527

The Florida House of Representatives has a similar proposal in HB 527.  As originally drafted, HB 527 would not only require the jury have a unanimous recommendation of death before the death penalty could be imposed, but it would also require the jury to recommend life without parole as the sentence if the jury could not reach a unanimous recommendation of the death penalty. 

HB 527 is still moving through the committee process, calendared as follows: 

  • Criminal Justice Subcommittee agenda for: 02/15/17 9:00 AM
  • Judiciary Committee agenda for: 02/21/17 4:00 PM.

Follow Florida House of Representatives Bill 527 here.

News reports are the State of Florida is getting ready to execute more folk, even though SCOTUS and the Supreme Court of Florida pretty much have Florida executions on hold right now indefinitely. 

Florida Lethal Injections Executions With Etomidate

The Sun Sentinel and others are reporting that the Florida Department of Corrections paid money to get its drug supply ready for upcoming lethal injections. 

This apparently includes the purchase of a new drug, one that has never been used before in an execution. 

It’s called ETOMIDATE.  Read about the drug here.  It replaces midazolam in the three-drug cocktail.

Follow the details on this story, including the News Service of Florida getting the scoop by obtaining the records, in the article written by Dara Cam and published on December 5, 2016, in the Sun Sentinel, entitled "Death penalty: Florida may be pondering ‘novel’ lethal injection change."

Last week, the Florida Supreme Court released its opinion in Richard Franklin’s case

New Sentencing Hearing for Florida Death Row Inmate Richard Franklin

Their decision?  Franklin should get a new sentencing hearing on his murder conviction of a prison guard. 

Why? There was not complete agreement among the jurors in his initial sentencing.  "In light of the non-unanimous jury recommendation to impose a death sentence," explains the Court, Mr. Franklin will have a new sentencing hearing. 

READ THE FLORIDA SUPREME COURT DECISION IN FRANKLIN V. FLORIDA HERE.

What’s a Sentencing Hearing?

What’s that? It’s a trial in and of itself.  The prosecution presents its aggravating factors and arguments on why capital punishment should be given; the defense presents mitigating factors on why the death penalty is not appropriate. 

How Many New Sentencing Hearings in Florida?

Why is this happening?  Last January, the United States Supreme Court issued its opinion in Hurst v. Florida.  They ruled that the Florida death penalty law was unconstitutional.  We’ve discussed this in past posts. 

Last week’s Florida Supreme Court decision in Franklin is a result of the decision in Hurst. 

Thing is, it’s also a big red flag to the State of Florida that we can expect lots more Death Row Inmates to be allowed a second sentencing hearing.

How many?  No one is sure.  Robert Dunham of the Death Penalty Information Center has been quoted as predicting it’s in the hundreds

For more details, see the DPIC discussion here.

While there have been many delays of executions this year, both by overall court decision (e.g., Florida) and by stays in an individual case (e.g., Texas), the death penalty is being carried out in this country.

Georgia Execution Scheduled Today: Steven Frederick Spears

Today, in fact, the State of Georgia is scheduled to execute Steven Frederick Spears for the 2007 killing of his ex-girlfriend, Sherri Holland. 

Details of his case can be read at The Marshall Project. 

As of the publication of this post, Mr. Spears was set to die in 4 hours and 53 minutes.