This week in Florida, the Harvard research report into capital punishment in America continues to take on a life of its own. 

We’ve published posts on various aspects of the Harvard study (read them here and here).

Letter Sent to Duval County State Attorney

Now, there’s lots of talk – and news coverage – after two national organizations focused upon the Death Penalty both in the United States and abroad, released a letter that has been sent to the head prosecutor for Duval County, Florida, regarding the state attorney requesting the death penalty in prosecutions here.

The two national organizations are Equal Justice U.S.A. and Murder Victims Families for Reconciliation.

Those signing the letter represent victims from all over the country.  Five of the 55 signatories come from the State of Florida. 

Will this put pressure on the Duval County powers that be?  Should it?  What do you think? 

The full text of the letter sent by the victims to the Duval County State Attorney reads as follows:

All of us have suffered the tragedy of losing a loved one to murder. We intimately understand the deep pain caused by such loss and the challenges that families face in rebuilding their lives. Our criminal justice system must be responsive to the needs of murder victims’ families. Sadly, Duval County’s use of the death penalty has too often caused further pain by forcing murder victims’ families to endure a long, complex, and error-prone legal process.

Prosecutors and other officials need to be honest about the reality of the death penalty: it’s a false promise. A death penalty case drags families through long trials, appeals, and reversals—in short, constant uncertainty that leaves them frustrated and angry. That’s especially true in Florida. In just this year, the state’s death penalty law has been struck down as unconstitutional twice. Officials keep promising that the death penalty works and can deliver justice, but as these promises fall short time and time again, murder victims’ families are the ones left to suffer.

The District Attorney’s Office in Duval County frequently pursues the death penalty with little regard for its potentially harmful impact on murder victims’ families. Duval County is responsible for a quarter of death sentences in Florida, despite being only 5% of the state’s population. Of the over 3,000 counties nationwide, Duval County is an extreme outlier in its use of the death penalty. It is one of only 16 counties that produced five or more death sentences between 2010 and 2015.

The lengths to which Duval County will go in its pursuit of the death penalty has been on display after the 2013 murder of Shelby Farah. Despite her mother’s request that her family be spared a death penalty case and the lengthy process it entails, prosecutors continue to seek it. “Since my daughter’s murder,” Darlene Farah recently wrote, “I have begged and pleaded with the prosecutors to take the death penalty off the table, accept a plea deal and end this painful process for my family. At every step of the process, our wishes have been ignored.”

In pursuing the death penalty, Duval County often has caused additional harm to murder victims’ families. We, the undersigned, therefore call on the State Attorney’s Office for the 4th Judicial Circuit covering Duval County to immediately suspend use of the death penalty.

56 murder victims’ family members, listed below alphabetically, joined the letter.

Mary Ansheles (South Portland, ME)
Uncle Jullius was murdered

Joan Ansheles (Arlington, VA)
Relative G. Grischele was murdered

Kelly Parker Badeau (Tucson, AZ)
Father Julius Frederick Parker Jr. was murdered

Patricia Bane (Atlantic, VA)
Uncle Ambrose Bane was murdered

Henrietta Beckman (Hartford, CT)
Son Randy Beckman was murdered

Ernest Bohn (North Newton, KS)
Sister Helen Bohn Klassen was murdered

SueZann Bosler (Hallandale Beach, FL)
Father Bill Bosler was murdered

Elizabeth Brancato (Torrington, KS)
Sister Barbara O. McKitis was murdered

Kelli Cervantes (Brooklyn, NY)
Mother Noni Cervantes was murdered

Cedric Clarkson (St. Louis, MO)
Son was murdered

Nannetta Cook (Junction City, KS)
Grandmother Mary Mae Johnson was murdered

Madeleine Dewar (San Antonio, TX)
Son Andrew Hughes was murdered

Ursula Douglas (Charlotte, NC)
Relative T.J. Price Jr. was murdered

Nadine Douglas (Rock Hill, SC)
Relative T.J. Price Jr. was murdered

Cousar Douglas (Rock Hill, SC)
Relative Martha Houze was murdered

Deirdre Douglas-Hubbard (Charleston, SC)
Great grandmother and cousin were murdered

Carol Dreiling (Alexander, NC)
Parents Joan and Fred Dreiling were murdered

Judith Elane (Little Rock, AR)
Brother Ronald Eugene Schlatter was murdered

Darlene Farah (Jacksonville, FL)
Daughter Shelby Farah was murdered

Kelly and Celeste Fitzgerald (Chatham, NJ)
Cousin Ann McGovern was murdered

Kristin Froehlich (Wilmington, DE)
Brother David Froehlich was murdered

Joan Gauker (Monroe, NC)
Granddaughter was murdered

Aba Gayle (Silverton, OR)
Daughter Catherine Blount was murdered

McKinley Griffin (Oxford, PA)
Aunt Martha Griffin was murdered

Mary Head (Lawrence, KS)
Sister Patricia Erikson was murdered

Judith Hessman (Dodge City, KS)
Sister Mary Mel Eesa Rains was murdered

Henry Hubbard (Charlotte, NC)
Nephew T.J. Price Jr. was murdered

Marietta Jaeger Lane (Punta Gorda, FL)
Daughter Susan Marie Jaeger was murdered

Laurie Juedes (Redmond, WA)
Brother Ken Juedes was murdered

Miriam Kelle (Beatrice, NE)
Brother was murdered

Carolyn Lee (Pensacola, FL)
Mother Dorothy Edwards was murdered

Wilma Loganbill (Hesston, KS)
Son was murdered

Dawn Mancarella (West Haven, CT)
Mother Joyce Masury was murdered

Deldelp Medina (San Francisco, CA)
Aunt Magali Medina was murdered

Carolyn Metzler (Albuquerque, NM)
Relative Andy Lavern Smith was murdered

Jean Parks (Fletcher, NC)
Sister Elizabeth Parks Rosenberg was murdered

Bill Pelke (Anchorage, AK)
Grandmother Ruth Elizabeth Pelke was murdered

Bill Piper (Pennington, NJ)
Mother Arlene Piper was murdered

Corinne Rhodes (Rutland, MA)
Partner was murdered

Myra Rivera (Caguas, PR)
Daughter was murdered

Carolyn Saenz Zimmerman (Topeka, KS)
Father Lawrence Saenz was murdered

Vicki Schieber (New Market, MD)
Daughter Shannon Schieber was murdered

Judith Scott (Las Cruces, NM)
Aunt Ruth Scott was murdered

Andrew Smith (Raleigh, NC)
Son Daniel was murdered

Mark Soehner (Berkley, MI)
Sister Anne Soehner was murdered

Bonita Spikes (Upper Marlboro, MD)
Husband Michael was murdered

Elizabeth Stein (Houston, TX)
Cousin Gary Stein was murdered

Anne Stone (Farmington, CT)
Son Ralph Stone was murdered

Rev. Jack Sullivan Jr. (Raleigh, NC)
Sister Jennifer McCoy was murdered

Michelle VanDeRee (Columbia, TN)
Relative Edgar Pillow was murdered

Molly Weigel (Pennington, NJ)
Mother-in-law Arlene Piper was murdered

Terry Werner (Lincoln, NE)
Cousin Janet Mesner was murdered

Theresa Westerfield (Redington Shores, FL)
Uncle Charles Westerfield was murdered

Deborah Wiese (Port Townsend, WA)
Sister and Brother-in-law Lynn and Richard Ehlenfeldt were murdered

Hannah Yoo (Chicago, IL)
Father Kenneth Yoo was murdered