We asked the following question to readers on social media and the Public Insight Network recently: In light of the Supreme Court ruling, should Florida continue to have the death penalty? Thanks for all of your responses. Below is a sampling of your comments, some of which were edited for length and clarity. Learn more about the Public Insight Network and comment on previous discussions at MiamiHerald.com/community and select Community Conversations.
The death penalty has no place in today’s system of jurisprudence any more than we need a well-armed militia. The reasons are really quite simple and clear. The death penalty deters no one from killing. It creates more suffering than it cures, for both victim’s and perpetrator’s families. Far too many innocent people have been executed and will be as long as rules of evidence and trial procedures let it happen. If the idea is to remove a threat to society, a lifetime inside an 8-by- 8 cage accomplishes that task. Killing in the name of the state is merely revenge, not justice.
Eric Moss Miami
I have always been an advocate of the death penalty. I believe those who commit heinous murders should be immediately put to death. Unfortunately, since our entire system is made of human beings and we are all flawed, one cannot be certain of a person’s guilt. This has been proven time and again through science — innocent people’s lives ruined and even taken. Sad does not begin to describe it.
Michelle Moore, Davie
We are the last Western nation to still have a death penalty, followed by Belarus and Kazakhstan — and it is completely inhumane. How do you respond to to a capital crime, such a murder, with murder? Fiscally, it is cheaper to have life imprisonment sentences handed down, than upkeep a death row, which can cost us millions per detainee with costs of court fees, appeals, etc. Last, having the death penalty does not deter crime. No recent study can show you otherwise. What other reason can there be to have a death penalty?
Alex Hernandez, Miami
Why should we allow people to kill others and then we become responsible for their shelter, clothes, food, medical needs and dental needs and recreational needs? We don’t even take care of our veterans as well as we take care of our people in prison. If you kill someone, you should pay the price for the lives that you have killed and the families that are destroyed by your savage acts. Our Florida Correctional System is in shambles because of the cost to keep these people that committed crimes against our citizens.
Robert Spiegel, Virginia Gardens
I fully agree that the discretion should be the jury’s. I think a super majority, either 10 or 11 of 12 jurors should be the standard. Unanimous decisions would tempt members of the jury pool with an agenda to lie their way onto the jury.
I am ambivalent about the death penalty. When we ceded revenge as a response to the murder of a loved one to the government we didn’t necessarily intend to have that revenge watered down. On the other hand the large number of death row prisoners that have been exonerated means that the jury system is far from infallible. I see two useful actions that might be considered to help with these problems. With the first, I think that a requirement that the judge yield to a request by a majority (or super-majority) of the immediate family of a murder victim if they ask that the defendant not be executed. As to the second, perjury to obtain a conviction, whether by a witness or a government agent, should be a crime punishable by a percentage (preferably a large percentage) of the sentence to which the defendant could be subject.
Arnold Slotkin, Hollywood
While the Supreme Court decision deals with a narrow problem with the death penalty in Florida, it’s time to abolish capital punishment. Life without parole is an equivalent deterrent and is far less costly. We can insure those convicted of terrible crimes will die in prison — death penalty by incarceration.
Rock Salt, Coral Gables
The death penalty serves as the ultimate and final deterrent to the criminals to whom it is applied. Those people will never, under any circumstances, harm anybody ever again — not even other convicts. It also serves as closure for the families of victims and that’s very necessary to have healing.
Jim Kononoff, Miami
Regardless of the Supreme Court ruling, Florida should abolish the death penalty. It’s a barbaric, dehumanizing ritual that’s disproportionately applied to people of color.
Aaron Curtis, Coral Gables
I am opposed to the death penalty on general principles. This quirk of Florida law deserved to be shot down, but the death penalty itself needs to go. It will take generations to alter the culture of violence in our society, if it ever happens. The death penalty is a reflection of this culture, except that it is a form of vengeance officially sanctioned by legal authority and the courts. I believe this can be changed eventually, probably on a state by state basis.
David Burkart, Kendall
The fact is that Florida has a long history of sentencing persons to death and then finding out that they are innocent. The death penalty is clearly not equitably applied across all ethnic groups. I believe that the exorbitant cost of the process, including appeals and special housing for up to a decade, is a significant and unnecessary burden on us as taxpayers. I do not believe that the death penalty prevents crime. The death penalty in not in line with either my moral of fiscal principles.
Daniel Thomas, Coral Gables
No. Procedural nit-picking aside, the death penalty makes barbarians of us all. Forget the argument that convicts aren’t worth spending a fortune to feed and house; they’re fairly cheap to keep and Florida spends less on them than most states do. They’re not much better off caged in Florida’s hellish, inhumane prisons than poisoned to death and buried in boxes.
Arnold Markowitz, Miami Shores
No. The death penalty codifies and legitimizes violence. Because the government does it, it teaches that violent retribution is a reasonable way to react to wrongs.
George Skokan, Westchester