Executions climb across U.S. because of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, report shows (2024)

TALLAHASSEE – The number of executions nationwide ticked upwards to 24 this year, in part because of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ signing of six death warrants in Florida while he campaigns for president.

In a new report, the Death Penalty Information Center noted the six executions in Florida, topped only by the eight conducted in Texas, was the state’s most in nine years. Florida and Texas account for more than half of the nation’s executions, which increased from 18 a year earlier.

But the non-profit DPIC, in its year-end report released Friday, also points out that for the first time a nationwide Gallup poll finds that more Americans believe the death penalty is administered unfairly, by 50% to 47%.

“If you zoom out and look at the country, you’ll see that the death penalty is used very rarely,” said Robin Maher, executive director of the organization, which does not take a formal position on capital punishment but is critical of how it is administered.

Executions climb across U.S. because of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, report shows (1)

“The overall trend, the long-term trend is moving decisively away from the death penalty in the United States,” she added.

Most states have abandoned capital punishment

Moststates – 29 – have now either abolished the death penalty or have paused executions by executive action, DPIC said in its report.Only five states conducted executions in 2023 and seven states imposed new death sentences, the lowest number reported in 20 years.

But in Florida, along with the six executions carried out, five new death sentences also were handed down by courts.

In DeSantis’ first four years in the governor’s office, he only ordered two executions to be carried out. But the pace accelerated this year, with DeSantis formally launching in May what has now become a longshot bid for the White House.

Shortly before kicking off his campaign in a glitch-filled event on Twitter with company owner, Elon Musk, who has since changed the site’s name to X, DeSantis enhanced the ability for courts to hand downcapital punishment in Florida.

DeSantis makes it easier to apply death penalty

The governor signed into law a measure making it easier for juries to recommend the death penalty – allowing for only an 8-4 vote instead of the previous requirement for unanimity. The move followed a less-than-unanimous vote that resulted in Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz being sentenced to life in prison.

DeSantis also enacted legislation this year that makes child rapists eligible for the death penalty, which conflicts with a 2008 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that found such punishment unconstitutional in cases where the victim did not die.

Some death penalty experts said that DeSantis’ focus on capital punishment was powered by politics, part of his pursuit of Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump, who now holds close to a 50% lead over DeSantis in national polls.A recent survey also showed DeSantis trailing Trump by 39% in Florida.

While president, Trump set a remarkable record of executing 13 federal inmates during his last six months in office. He executed more civilian prisoners during his term than any president since Grover Cleveland in 1896.

Cleveland also is the only president to do what Trump is trying to emulate: Lose a presidential election and return four years later to regain the White House.

Chasing GOP voters

Daniel Medwed, a professor of law and criminal justice at Northeastern University School of Law, earlier told the USA TODAY Network – Florida that DeSantis appeared to be playing to Republican voters, who surveys have shown remain overwhelmingly supportive of the death penalty, although research casts doubt on whether it plays any role in deterring crime.

“The people on the right are trying to show they’re tough on crime and those on the left are showing their openness to criminal justice reform,” Medwed said.

DeSantis' pace picks up:DeSantis steps up pace of executions in Florida, chasing Trump

Florida's capital toll:Florida executes Michael Zack in 1996 killing of woman he met at bar

DeSantis spokesman Jeremy Redfern has said that a range of issues – not politics – contribute to the timing of executions. The COVID-19 pandemic and states of emergency declared in Florida, such as during hurricanes, also affect scheduling, he said.

Four of the six inmates executed this year had been on Death Row for more than 30 years. There are 288 people now facing execution in Florida.

In its report, the Death Penalty Information Center cited the Gallup Crime Survey, which has been asking Americans about application of the death penalty since 2000.

The October 2023 survey was the first to find that more Americans believe the death penalty is applied unfairly, a contrast from the years 2000-2015, when 51%-61% though it was fair. The level of support has been dropping since 2016, but this year’s 47% is the lowest in Gallup’s polling, DPIC said.

Maria DiLiberato, executive director of Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, said the views of Floridians mirror those found in the Gallup survey, even though their state is one where capital punishment is vigorously used.

"Everyday Floridians' attitudes are no different," said DiLiberato, a former prosecutor in Miami-Dade County. "The biggest fallacy is that Floridians want the death penalty. ... It's unfortunate that a single person can have so much power over life and death in this state."

John Kennedy is a reporter in the USA TODAY Network’s Florida Capital Bureau. He can be reached at jkennedy2@gannett.com, or on Twitter at @JKennedyReport

Executions climb across U.S. because of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, report shows (2024)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Kareem Mueller DO

Last Updated:

Views: 5993

Rating: 4.6 / 5 (46 voted)

Reviews: 93% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Kareem Mueller DO

Birthday: 1997-01-04

Address: Apt. 156 12935 Runolfsdottir Mission, Greenfort, MN 74384-6749

Phone: +16704982844747

Job: Corporate Administration Planner

Hobby: Mountain biking, Jewelry making, Stone skipping, Lacemaking, Knife making, Scrapbooking, Letterboxing

Introduction: My name is Kareem Mueller DO, I am a vivacious, super, thoughtful, excited, handsome, beautiful, combative person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.