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Is the Death Sentence Dying Out in Florida?

Florida executed two death row inmates in 2015, as the number of executions nationally dropped to a 25 year low. (larryfarr/morguefile)
Florida executed two death row inmates in 2015, as the number of executions nationally dropped to a 25 year low. (larryfarr/morguefile)
December 21, 2015

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – There are signs capital punishment may be dying out in Florida, as only a handful of new death sentences were handed down this year.

In 1991, Florida returned a record 45 death sentences, but less than a quarter century later, the number is down to nine.

Mark Elliott, executive director of Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, says that represents a significant shift.

"This is a reflection of a positive change in public opinion and increased awareness on the part of judges, juries and the public about just what the death penalty state program is and what the flaws are," he states.

Elliott says one of those flaws is that the state allows a non-unanimous jury to recommend the death penalty – one of only three states to do so.

He says Florida's decline in the use of capital punishment is part of a larger trend, with the national number of death sentences also dropping.

Elliott says the fact that capital punishment is still used at all in this country puts the U.S. on a list that would make many Americans cringe when it comes to human rights.

"The countries year in and year out for decades that have been the primary users of the death penalty, the most extreme users of execution, have been China, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and the United States," he points out.

Critics of capital punishment also cite the high cost of the program, as well as the number of wrongful convictions that are overturned each year.

A new report from the non-partisan Death Penalty Information Center says Florida is one of just six states to carry out executions in 2015.

Mona Shand, Public News Service - FL