“Two wrongs don’t make a right. The death penalty is no way to impart justice,” says Erika Guevara Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International.
In 2016, the US Supreme Court in Hurst v. Florida ruled that Florida’s capital sentencing law was unconstitutional. Yet, despite the ruling, Florida still has the second-largest death row in the nation and is fourth in the number of executions since 1976.
Amnesty International wants Florida to abolish their death penalty but it’s an uphill battle.
A new report released by Amnesty International, which focuses on three groups of death row inmates, shows that youth offenders and those with serious mental and intellectual disabilities are being taken advantage of by Florida’s capital sentencing laws.
The report calls into question the validity of executing those with serious mental illness, who are unfairly being labeled the “worst of the worst.” The report shows that prisoners with an intellectual disability, young adults with a mental maturity lower than that of an 18 year old, and those with a background of extreme deprivation and abuse, are at risk.
Amnesty’s goal is to convince Florida’s governor and his cabinet to commute the death sentences of all prisoners on death row.
Another problem the report reveals is how race influences who gets executed. Since 1976, not a single White person has been executed for killing a Black person. Whereas almost one fifth of the executions in this same time period involved Black defendants convicted of killing White victims.
Amnesty’s opposition to Florida’s death penalty is unconditional and absolute. Amnesty also wants Florida’s judges and juries to be made aware of a defendant’s mental health status and age before imposing the sentence of death.
Despite Amnesty’s urging, Florida remains a staunch believer in the death penalty. In response to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Florida’s legislation has revised its death penalty statute so executions could resume. In fact, Florida’s Supreme Court has even made the retroactive effect of Hurst only available to a limited group of cases,
cutting off almost half of the 400 people on Florida’s death row from a new sentencing hearing.
Mathew Marshall is one such person. He was 24 when he was convicted of murder in 1988. Although the jury unanimously voted to sentence him to life in prison, the judge overruled the decision and sentenced him to death. “The USA must stop resorting to the ultimate cru- el, inhuman and degrading punishment, and join the 142 countries that are abolitionist in law or practice today,” says Erika Guevara Rosas for Amnesty International.