New Jersey ended its death penalty this week, but Florida will not follow the lead, says the St. Petersburg Times. New Jersey, which hasn’t executed anyone since 1963, had only eight people on death row when Gov. Jon Corzine ended capital punishment, commuting the prisoners’ sentences to life in prison without parole. Florida’s death row population is approaching 400. Hardly a year goes by without at least one execution. Since the death penalty’s reinstatement in 1976, Florida has executed 64 people.
Florida halted executions after the December 2006 execution of Angel Diaz took twice as long as is typical because the lethal mix of drugs went into his flesh instead of his bloodstream. Gov. Charlie Crist ended the moratorium in July by signing the death warrant for Mark Dean Schwab, convicted of kidnapping, raping and killing an 11-year-old Cocoa boy in 1991. His execution was stayed in November by the U.S. Supreme Court, which is reviewing whether execution by lethal injection violates the Constitution. “Florida is so committed to the death penalty,” said Prof. Laurie Levenson of California’s Loyola Law School. “I think that New Jersey may represent a trend, but not necessarily one that Florida’s going to follow.” If Florida takes anything from New Jersey’s decision, it should be the idea of a “morally refined death penalty,” said Robert Blecker, a professor at New York Law School.