For Immediate Release: Apr. 21, 2023
Contact: Katlyn Toelle at firstname.lastname@example.org
Website: catholicsmobilizing.org Twitter: @CMNEndtheDP
Governor DeSantis Lowers Death Penalty Threshold in Florida
A new law eliminating jury unanimity requirements called “a thinly-veiled attack on human life.”
WASHINGTON, DC – Governor Ron DeSantis signed a law Thursday that allows juries in Florida to non-unanimously sentence people to death. The state now only requires eight out of twelve jurors to vote in favor of a death sentence in order for it to be recommended to the judge.
“We are deeply disturbed that Governor DeSantis, a self-professed ‘pro-life’ governor, has signed a law that makes Florida one of the most aggressive death penalty states in the country,” said CMN Executive Director Krisanne Vaillancourt Murphy. “This new law assigns Florida the ill-fated distinction as the state that can most easily send a person to death row. In no uncertain terms, DeSantis has sanctioned a thinly-veiled attack on human life.”
Florida recently restarted executions for the first time in nearly four years. Both men who’ve been executed this year, Donald Dillbeck and Louis Gaskin, as well as Darryl Barwick, who is slated for execution on May 3, were sentenced to death by non-unanimous juries.
“It is revealing that Governor DeSantis is now suddenly pushing full-force to expand Florida’s death penalty, just as he’s expected to formally announce a presidential bid,” noted Vaillancourt Murphy. “It is not lost on us that people with political aspirations often use executions as a way to gain political support. The death penalty should not be used to score political points. Human beings should not be used as political pawns — including human beings on death row.”
Florida’s death penalty system is famously riddled with wrongful convictions and racial bias. Of the 191 U.S. death row exonerations since 1973, the largest portion of exonerees (30) come from Florida. Nearly all of those exonerations involved a non-unanimous jury recommendation for death or cases where a judge overrode the jury’s life decision.
“Florida’s notorious struggles with racial bias and wrongful conviction will almost certainly be exacerbated with the allowance of non-unanimous death sentencing,” said Vaillancourt Murphy. “This new law clears the way for chaos and needless suffering for victims’ families, people on death row, and current and future capital defendants.”
Nationally, the U.S. is trending away from the use of capital punishment. To date, 23 states have formally abolished the death penalty. More than two-thirds of U.S. states have either outlawed capital punishment or otherwise have not carried out an execution in at least 10 years.
Catholic Mobilizing Network is a national organization that mobilizes Catholics and all people of goodwill to value life over death, to end the use of the death penalty, to transform the U.S. criminal justice system from punitive to restorative, and to build capacity in U.S. society to engage in restorative practices.