Death penalty defense lawyers, Allison Miller and Craig Whisenhunt joined MidPoint on Wednesday, May 24, to discuss the new legislation that now makes Florida the state with the lowest legal threshold to put convicted people to death. The 2023 legislation allows a jury to impose a death sentence on a convicted defendant with only an 8 to 4 vote, making Florida the only state, other than Alabama, to allow non-unanimous juries to impose a death sentence. It also permits a death sentence upon conviction of rape of a child under age 12, under certain aggravating conditions, prompting the lawyers to ask rhetorically, “If you’re going to get the same death sentence for raping a child or for raping and then killing a child, why not just kill the child?” This is another way the possibility of a death sentence does not provide any deterrence from committing the most heinous of crimes. This new legislation that makes sexual battery on a child subject to the death penalty is also probably unconstitutional, but it was a priority of Gov. DeSantis, so the Republican-controlled legislature pushed it through.
Death Cases Are Complex, Lengthy, Expensive, and Provide No Deterrence of Murder
Research indicates that there is no evidence of a deterrent effect linked to death penalty laws. The Death Penalty Information Center analyzed 2020 homicide data and found that states with the death penalty had significantly higher murder rates than states without it. According to the defense lawyers, the death sentence does not give any sense of closure for the victims either. Death cases drag on forever, with trials and retrials and post-conviction appeals continuing for many years after the original conviction. These cases are also expensive. The Death Penalty Information Center reports that death cases are far more complex, lengthy, and expensive than any other legal cases. They are also more costly, even than sentencing a convicted defendant to a life sentence without parole would be. In Florida, some of the more complicated death trials can cost taxpayers $41 million, approximately 80 times more than a life sentence without parole would cost taxpayers. That is the only other sentence that can be imposed upon a defendant convicted of murder, so, as the lawyers emphasized, either way, a defendant convicted of murder WILL die in prison. It begs the question, then, “What is the value to society of the death penalty?”
Listen to the show in its entirety here, or stream it on demand from the MidPoint show page, wmnf.org/midpoint, or listen to WMNF MidPoint as a podcast from your favorite podcast service.