Jacksonville mother raises awareness about death penalty

By Ashley Harding - Reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The fight over Florida’s death penalty procedures will stretch into the summer.

The state Supreme Court is expected to hear arguments on one of the biggest issues in the debate. One Jacksonville mother said she will continue her push to see the death penalty thrown out in the murder trial of her daughter’s accused killer.

On Thursday night,  Darlene Farah talked about the death penalty and the trauma inflicted on victims of crime at an event called "Not in My Name." Her daughter Shelby would have turned 23 years old Thursday. 

Police said she was shot and killed by James Rhodes during a robbery at the Brentwood cellphone store where Farah was working in 2013.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty. Farah's mother said she wants Rhodes to spend the rest of his life behind bars. It’s part of the debate causing a lot of confusion in Florida courtrooms.

On what would have been Shelby Farah's 23rd birthday, her mother Darlene, now prepares for another chance to be her voice.

Farah is speaking about something very personal, something she believes to be right -- a chance to make a difference.

“It's going to be non-stop. It's to bring awareness to the death penalty,” Farah said.

Awareness and compassion for Farah, every time she sees the man charged in Shelby's murder, she feels victimized all over again. She says the trauma of not being able to move forward is real. She's not alone. “The victim's families are reaching out to me to let their story be heard. They've been pushed away,” Farah said.

With Florida's death penalty now in the legal forefront, the process has been drawn out more.

Back in January, the United States Supreme Court ruled Florida's death penalty sentencing process unconstitutional.  Florida lawmakers rushed to make changes after that, the current law said 10 of 12 jurors must recommend death.

Since then, a circuit judge in Miami-Dade struck that down, saying the recommendations need to be unanimous. Lawmakers are expected to discuss that in June.

The process is still ongoing. But for Farah, this is about something much bigger than legalities. She said she also wants to see changes in the system, starting with juveniles who've been in trouble.

“Twelve-year-olds, 15-year-olds that are being tried as adults and they get 25, 30 years and we all know what's going to happen. I mean they're going to end right back in the system,” Farah said. “It’s basically, to break the silence. They are their loved one's voice and they need to be heard.”

Two men who were on death row but have since been exonerated also spoke at the event at Mount Sinai Baptist Church. 

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