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Report: Some FL Counties Top List for Death Penalty Use

Photo: Florida leads country in the number of death sentences handed down, according to a new report. Courtesy Death Penalty Information Center.
Photo: Florida leads country in the number of death sentences handed down, according to a new report. Courtesy Death Penalty Information Center.
October 8, 2013

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Not all counties are created equal when it comes to issuing death penalty sentences in Florida, or the rest of the country. According to a new report by the Death Penalty Information Center,Florida leads the nation for the number of death sentences handed down in the last two years, and has the second-largest death row population in the country. Duval, Clay and Nassau Counties top the list, and all are in the 4th Judicial District.

Political scientist Frank Baumgartner, a professor at the University of North Carolina, explained why there seems to be a concentration in certain areas.

"The small number of jurisdictions apply the death penalty for some reason, and I think the reason is the development of a local prosecutorial culture," he said.

Since 1976, the report says just four states - Florida, Texas, Virginia, and Oklahoma - have been responsible for almost 60 percent of the country's executions. And nationwide, just 2 percent of counties account for a majority of death row inmates.

Baumgartner said that once a death sentence is handed down in a county, prosecutors there are more likely to pursue the punishment in other cases.

"So, when the next really bad one occurs, you think, 'Well, just in terms of fairness, we need to apply it again in this case.' The counties of the United States separate out into the users and non-users of the death penalty, which is very disturbing, when you think about it," he remarked.

The report says Duval County has the eighth-largest number of inmates on death row, at 60. Comparatively, the three cities nationwide with the highest murder rates in 2012 - Detroit and Flint, Michigan, and New Orleans - are not even on that top-ten list.

The full report is at DeathPenaltyInfo.org.

Stephanie Carroll Carson, Public News Service - FL