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Virginia Execution Highlights Florida Delays

November 12th, 2009 by Mike Vasilinda

The execution of the D.C. sniper John Muhammad in Virginia has raised questions about Florida’s death penalty. An analysis of Florida death row inmates shows 86 percent of them committed their crime before Muhammad, but are no where near an execution. As Mike Vasilinda tells us, Florida’s death penalty is a victim of its own popularity.

Florida has 17 inmates who were sentenced to death more than 30 years ago. The longest surviving is Gary Alvord, who was convicted in Tampa in 1974 for strangling three women.

Yet John Muhammad spent just 5 and a half years on Virginia’s death row, where the average stay is 7.1 years. Here in Florida it’s five years longer. The delay frustrates prosecutors.

“I think we all want it but I think most folks involved in it just don’t have the stomach for doing what needs to be done,” States Attorney Willie Meggs said.

With almost 400 complex death cases, the reality is Florida courts are just overwhelmed. Especially compared to Virginia, where they have just 15 death row inmates.

A recent California study found that housing on death row costs about three times as much as other prison space.  Using the California number of 138 thousand per year, Florida is spending 53 million just to house death row inmates, and likely that much again to fight their appeals. Advocates say the numbers don’t make sense.

“Florida is in serious financial trouble and you’ve got to start looking at places like capital punishment where you can save some serious dollars,” attorney Larry Spalding said.

More than four dozen Florida death row inmates are over the age of 60, and it’s becoming increasingly likely that most of them will die from natural causes rather than execution.

Of the 387 people on Florida’s death row, 343 of them committed their crimes before John Muhammad was arrested in October 2002.

deathrowbycounty

Posted in Criminal Justice, State Budget, State News | 14 Comments »

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