Florida leads nation in death sentences

Most of Florida's 400 death-row inmates are likely to die in prison

Published On: Dec 26 2012 06:00:01 PM EST
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -

At a time with executions nationwide are declining, Florida is leading the way in death sentences. A new report shows Florida's 21 capital punishment sentences in 2012 are far more than any other state in the union.

Since the 1970's, 24 of Florida's death row inmates have been exonerated. The latest was Seth Penalver, who was freed earlier this month after spending half his life behind bars.

After spending 27 years locked up for a murder he didn't commit, William Dillon was released from prison on DNA evidence. When he was about to meet Gov. Rick Scott after he was freed, he thought hard about what he was going to say to the governor.

Here's what he decided to say: "Nice to meet you there governor. Good thing they didn't give me the death penalty because you wouldn't be talking to me right now."

But all the wrongful convictions haven't deterred death row sentences in Florida, where more than 400 people are now on death row.

But while Florida may lead the nation in death sentences, it lags behind many states in carrying out the punishment. Most of those awaiting execution in Florida will die of old age, not lethal injection.

That's good news to death-penalty opponents.

"It just continues the cycle of violence and it's just not necessary in this day and age," said Michael McCarron of the Florida Catholic Conference.

Thirty-three states still carry the death penalty, but just nine used it last year.

Florida pays $50 million each year to maintain the maximum security death row wing of Florida State Prison and offer the legal services to convicts facing the death penalty.