Does Florida Have The Death Penalty?

The death penalty, more formally known as capital punishment, is the legal practice whereby criminals are punished for committing crimes through execution. As you may have guessed, this is a more final form of punishment that is often reserved for the worst crimes.

Nowadays, fewer places practice this form of punishment. Across the world, 107 countries have abolished the death penalty. Though this is the case, some countries, such as the United States, China, and Japan, still implement this punishment.

This raises the question of which American states still have the death penalty. 27 states still carry it out. Does Florida? Find out here!

Does Florida Have the Death Penalty?

In summary, yes. Florida does still carry out the death penalty. However, in order for this punishment to be carried out, there is a strict set of factors that must be fulfilled. As a result, the death penalty is not overly common. The factors that will provoke the implementation of the death penalty are:

  • The person intentionally caused the risk of death to multiple people.
  • The person had already committed a felony
  • The defendant committed the crime while being engaged or attempting to perpetrate a specific felony, like arson.
  • The crime was carried out when avoiding an arrest or escaping from custody.
  • The crime was motivated by financial gain.
  • It was perpetrated to disrupt a lawful government function or to hamper the enforcement of the law.
  • The crime was especially cruel or horrific in nature.
  • It was performed in a premeditated and unsympathetic way without any justification, whether that be morally or by law.
  • The victim of the capital crime worked for law enforcement. This officer was performing their lawful responsibilities.
  • The sufferer was an elected public official carrying out their duties. The crime was linked to their official role.
  • The victim was under the age of 12 years old.
  • The sufferer was particularly vulnerable, such as because of their disability or age. In addition, the felon had authority over the victim.
  • The felon was a member of a criminal gang.
  • The criminal is or was a sexual predator.
  • The crime was carried out by someone with a restraining order or foreign protection order. Furthermore, the victim of the crime was the one who obtained the injunction.

History

The first instance of capital punishment being performed in Florida occurred in 1827. The felon was named Benjamin Donica. Donica was hanged for committing murder. During the 1800s, hanging was the most common method of execution in Florida. These public hangings would be supervised by a sheriff.

Florida’s implementation of capital punishment changed in 1923. The reason for this is that the law surrounding hanging changed. Hanging was viewed as a cruel and inhumane form of punishment. Consequently, a bill was passed that replaced hanging with the electric chair.

The electric chair was seen as more merciful. In addition, this bill meant that executions were placed under state jurisdiction. In 1924, Frank Johnson was the first person in Florida to be executed via the electric chair.

The next main point in this history occurred in 1972. In this year, the United States Supreme Court made all capital punishment cases invalid. This case was known as Furman v. Georgia. This case was given this name due to the conviction of William Henry Furman. Furman had been convicted for murder in the state of Georgia. This case was overturned by the United States Supreme Court.

Though this case happened in Georgia, it has a ripple effect on all other states, including Florida. Florida rewrote their statute on the 12th of August, 1972. This, however, would not last for long.

In 1976, this once again changed. The Supreme Court overturned the Furman v. Georgia case. The death penalty was allowed in Georgia following the Gregg v. Georgia case. Florida’s case was known as Proffitt v. Florida. As a result, the death penalty was once again implemented in Florida.

The first person to be subjected to this punishment was John Arthur Spenkelink. Spenkelink was killed on May 25th, 1979 through the electric chair. He was convicted of killing Joseph Szymankiewicz, a criminal, in 1973.

Since then, Florida continued to use the electric chair to punish felons. Among these felons was Ted Bundy. The serial killer has become infamous, in part due to Zac Efron’s portrayal of Bundy in the 2019 film Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile.

Bundy was executed on the 24th of January 1989. He was convicted for abducting, raping, and murdering several women. He confessed to 30 murders, though the actual figure could potentially be more substantial.

The electric chair became a controversial execution method during the 1990s. This was because Florida was unsuccessful in mercifully killing its felons. The most famous example of this is Allen Lee Davis. Davis was convicted of the murder of Nancy Weiler, a pregnant woman.

In July 1999, David was meant to be executed via the electric chair. Davis was found to still be alive after the electric chair, nicknamed Old Sparky, had been used on him. During the procedure, Davis bled from the nose. He also developed considerable burns during the operation. Because of this, Davis became the last person to be killed via the electric chair in Florida.

Following this instance, lethal injection was used in Florida. This method of execution works by injecting a felon with a drug that causes them to become unconscious and eventually kills them. This method has been adopted by a lot of states since it is fast-acting and considered more humane than other techniques.

Another well-known convict that was executed in Florida was Aileen Wuornos. Wuornos, a serial killer, was given the lethal injection in October 2002. The story of Aileen Wuornos was portrayed in the 2003 film entitled Monster. Wuornos was depicted by Charlize Theron, who won an Academy Award for this performance.

Though felons have the choice to either be killed by the electric chair or lethal injection, all have chosen the lethal injection. The only person not to do this so far has been Wayne C, Doty. Sentenced to death in 2018, Doty chose the electric chair. Doty has yet to be executed, though he is notable for choosing this less humane method.

In 2017, the laws altered yet again. Because of this statute, executions must be unanimous. This means that everyone must completely agree that the death penalty should be carried out.

Facts, and Figures

As of 1976, Florida has charged and executed 99 criminals. These murders were all killed in the Florida State Prison. This prison has been around since 1961. In 2021, 327 people are waiting to be executed. Inmates wait for their execution on death row.

Since 1976, Florida has been the state with the fourth highest-number of executions. The only states that have performed more executions are Texas, Virginia, and Oklahoma.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who Was the Last Person to be Executed in Florida?

Though there are many people waiting for their executions, Florida has not conducted any very recently. The last person to be executed in this state was Gary Ray Bowles. Bowles was given the lethal injection in August 2019.

Is the Electric Chair Still Used in Florida?

Yes, the electric chair is still used in Florida. However, most felons are instead given lethal injection. This is because it is much more effective.

What Privileges Are Death Row Inmates Given?

Most death row inmates have the same privileges as standard prisoners, though they may be treated slightly differently. They have the ability to be interviewed by the media. They can also use shower facilities and have space to exercise.

Before they are executed, inmates are given a final meal. This allows them to have whatever food they desire, as long as it does not cost more than $40 and the food can be sourced locally.

Conclusion

Ultimately, Florida does have the death penalty. Its history with capital punishment is long and complicated. Hopefully, this article will have given you a deeper understanding of this history.