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Death Penalty Moratorium in Florida

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What Happened:

On December 13th, 2006, Angel Diaz was executed by lethal injection. The botched procedure, which took more than twice as long as usual, was horrific; Diaz was conscious but paralyzed for the bulk of the 34-minute execution. On December 16th, Governor Jeb Bush (R-FL) declared a moratorium on all executions in the state pending review of lethal injection protocols.

What Florida Needs To Do:

Unlike California and Maryland, Florida's executive branch issued its moratorium voluntarily and without prompting by the judiciary. No executions will take place until at least March, when an independent commission appointed by the governor has issued its suggestions regarding revised implementation of lethal injection protocols.

What It Means:

Florida has only executed 65 prisoners since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976, so the moratorium is unlikely to substantially delay the state's execution schedule. More significant is the national debate over lethal injection that is presently taking place due to the botched Diaz executions. Similar botched executions essentially put an end to gas chamber and electric chair executions.

Public Opinion:

Death penalty polling in Florida tends to vary wildly. According to one poll, some 80 percent of Floridians support the death penalty; according to another, only 45 percent support the death penalty when life imprisonment without parole is available as an alternative sentence. The idea of a moratorium polls consistently well, however; two-thirds percent of Florida residents supported a moratorium even before the Diaz execution.

What Happens Next:

The new capital punishment commission will issue recommendations in March, and Governor Bush will presumably honor its decision.
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