"Death Penalty Question Revisited," is the December 23 report from AP filed by Bill Kaczor. It's via the Lakeland Ledger.
The Florida Supreme Court will be asked to take another look at how judges should determine whether a death row inmate is mentally disabled.
The issue divided the high court last week in a 4-2 opinion upholding Freddie Lee Hall's death sentence for murdering Karol Hurst, a 21-year-old pregnant woman who was abducted while leaving a Leesburg grocery store in 1978. A co-defendant is serving a life sentence.
Defense lawyer Eric Pinkard, who works for a state office that represents death row inmates, said Friday that he will ask for a rehearing and, if that fails, may take the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The federal high court has prohibited the execution of mentally disabled inmates as unconstitutional cruel and unusual punishment, but it has allowed states to determine what constitutes mental disability.
The majority of Florida justices ruled Thursday in Hall's case that they are bound by precedent set in earlier decisions prohibiting anyone with an IQ of 70 or higher from being declared mentally disabled, regardless of other evidence to the contrary.
The Palm Beach Post reported, "Lawyers question necessity, cost of local state attorney’s avid pursuit of the death penalty in murder cases," on December 26. It's by Jane Musgrave.
With his arm wrapped tightly around his wife, Naomi, Gerard Gonsalves seemed to be protecting her from the looming possibility that the loss of one son could cost them the other.
At a recent court hearing, the West Palm Beach couple looked on as psychologists and psychiatrists told a judge what they already knew: Their 24-year-old son, Brandin, suffers from a panoply of mental ills.
Since he was diagnosed at age 13, they tried to get him help to deal with his demons. The search ended in July when Brandin stabbed his 25-year-old brother 69 times in a fatal attack he has said was ordered by God.
Still reeling from the loss, the couple is now confronted with another: The state wants to kill their youngest son for killing their firstborn.
The case underscores the problems with a system State Attorney Peter Antonacci instituted when he was appointed in March, some defense attorneys say. Now, instead of asking a committee of top prosecutors to review every case to determine which accused killer should die for his or her crime, the office automatically seeks the death penalty in all first-degree murder cases.
“It’s crazy,” said Public Defender Carey Haughwout, whose office defends the indigent and represents about half of those charged with murder. “There’s no review done before they file a notice to seek the death penalty. My concern is that it’s handled as a matter of course.”
Under the policy, the number of death penalty cases has doubled from 12 in 2009 to 24 this year. That means costs — both financial and human — have increased as well.
Haughwout and other defense attorneys say they hope the policy changes when State Attorney-elect Dave Aronberg takes office in January. Aronberg declined to discuss how he would decide which accused murderer deserves the death penalty. But on the campaign trail he promised to reinstitute the committee system that was used by his mentor, former longtime State Attorney Barry Krischer, who is helping him prepare to take office.
Three news articles focus on the 2012 DPIC report and Florida death sentences. The South Florida Sun Sentinel published, "Florida leads nation in sending killers to Death Row," by Rafael Olmeda. It's also available via Huffington Post.
Florida may be fourth in the nation when it comes to population, but we're still No. 1 when it comes to sending convicted killers to death row, according to a report from a national nonprofit group that studies the death penalty in America.
The Sunshine State sentenced 21 inmates to death in 2012 — more than California, more than Pennsylvania, and even more than Texas, which continues to lead in the number of inmates actually executed, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.
It's the second straight year in which Florida has held the top spot among the states that have a death penalty, but it still represents a big spike over last year, when we sent 13 people to death row. California came in second both years, having sent 10 inmates to death row in 2011 and 14 this year.
"Florida led the nation in death sentences in 2012, report says," by Jeff Weiner for the Orlando Sentinel.
A report by a national nonprofit group that studies the death penalty found that Florida remains among the most active states in using it and put more defendants on death row in 2012 than any other state.
The Death Penalty Information Center's report reveals that only nine states executed a prisoner this year, with Florida putting three to death. Texas, with 15, executed the most defendants, the report states.
However, the Sunshine State far exceeded other states in new death sentences: 21 defendants were sentenced to die in Florida through mid-December, the research says.
Also, "Report: Florida leads nation in new death penalty cases," is by Elaine Silvestrini for the Tampa Tribune.
As capital punishment declines in use and support nationwide, Florida leads the country in the number of death sentences handed down this year, according to a report by a group that advocates against the death penalty.
Florida judges sentenced 21 killers to death in 2012, followed by California with death sentences for 14 murderers, Texas with 9 and Pennsylvania with seven, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. The four states accounted for 65 percent of the death sentences handed out in the United States.
Nationally, the number of death sentences issued was the second lowest since capital punishment was reinstated nationwide in 1976.
In Florida, Duval County sent the most inmates to death row this year, at four, according to information from the state Department of Corrections. Hillsborough and Pinellas counties each sent one person to death row this year.