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Florida’s “Execution Machine” Back On As Gov. Scott Schedules First State Killing In 18 Months

| July 5, 2017

Florida's grimmest show is set to resume. (Florida Department of Corrections)

Florida’s grimmest show is set to resume. (Florida Department of Corrections)

Signaling a potential end to an 18-month hiatus for the state’s embattled death penalty, Gov. Rick Scott on Monday rescheduled the execution date of convicted killer Mark James Asay for Aug. 27.

“I think the execution machine is going to get started again immediately,” said Pete Mills, an assistant public defender in the 10th Judicial Circuit who also serves as chairman of the Florida Public Defenders Association Death Penalty Steering Committee.

Asay was one of two Death Row inmates whose executions were put on hold by the Florida Supreme Court early last year after the U.S. Supreme Court, in a case known as Hurst v. Florida, struck down as unconstitutional the state’s death penalty sentencing system.

The federal court ruling, premised on a 2002 decision in a case known as Ring v. Arizona, found that Florida’s system of allowing judges, instead of juries, to find the facts necessary to impose the death penalty was an unconstitutional violation of the Sixth Amendment right to trial by jury.

The January 2016 federal court decision set off a string of court rulings that have effectively put Florida’s death penalty in limbo for 18 months.

A year ago, the Florida Legislature hurriedly addressed the U.S. Supreme Court ruling by passing a law requiring at least 10 jurors to recommend death for the sentence to be imposed.

But the state Supreme Court struck down that law, saying the Hurst ruling requires that death recommendations be unanimous, even though the federal court did not address the issue.

This spring, lawmakers again amended the state’s death penalty statute, this time mandating unanimous jury recommendations in capital sentencing cases.

Meanwhile, the Florida Supreme Court in December lifted the hold on Asay’s execution, in one of a pair of key rulings focused on the implications of Hurst.

In Asay’s case, the court ruled that Hurst should not apply retroactively to cases finalized before the 2002 Ring decision because, in part, of the impact on the administration of justice.

“Penalty phase resentencing is a time-intensive proceeding that requires significant preparation and discovery, death-qualifying a jury, and generally, a multi-day trial,” the majority wrote. “While some of the prior witnesses’ statements could be admitted based on the transcripts from the prior sentencing, the jury’s ability to weigh the strength of those witnesses would clearly be impacted. Finally there is an important consideration regarding the impact a new sentencing proceeding would have on the victims’ families and their need for finality.”

Since the December rulings, the Florida court has consistently vacated the death penalty in sentences handed down by non-unanimous juries after Ring.

In a letter Monday to Florida State Prison Warden Barry Reddish, Scott — who signed a record number of death warrants before the Supreme Court ruling last year and urged lawmakers in 2014 to pass a measure aimed at speeding up executions — ordered Asay to be put to death on August 27.

But the new execution date could also be problematic. Scott scheduled Asay to be put to death by lethal injection just after the Florida Supreme Court — which, along with federal courts, often must consider last-minute appeals — resumes work after a summer recess. The court is scheduled to issue its first set of rulings after a month-long summer break on Aug. 31.

Asay will be the first Death Row inmate put to death under a new, untested lethal injection protocol adopted by state corrections officials in the midst of the upheaval over the death penalty earlier this year. The changes to the three-drug lethal injection procedure come after the previous drugs used by the state to execute prisoners expired.

The move to the new drugs in Florida — never before used in lethal injection procedures, according to national experts — is almost certain to spur additional litigation, generally launched by the first inmate scheduled to undergo a new protocol, which in this instance would be Asay.

Asay was convicted in 1988 of the murders of Robert Lee Booker and Robert McDowell in downtown Jacksonville. Asay allegedly shot Booker, who was black, after calling him a racial epithet. He then killed McDowell, who was dressed as a woman, after agreeing to pay him for oral sex. According to court documents, Asay later told a friend that McDowell had previously cheated him out of money in a drug deal.

Asay’s case has also involved a legal tangle over destroyed records and a lawyer who was the subject of an investigation ordered by Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Jorge Labarga.

The high court dropped the inquiry after Mary Catherine Bonner, who repeatedly missed critical deadlines in death penalty cases, resigned from a statewide registry that made her eligible to represent defendants in capital cases.

Marty McClain, a lawyer appointed to represent Asay after Scott signed a death warrant early last year, found that the Death Row inmate had gone for nearly a decade without representation. Many of the records related to Asay’s case provided by Bonner were destroyed by insects or exposure to the elements, according to court records filed by McClain.

–Dara Kam, News Service of Florida

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16 Responses for “Florida’s “Execution Machine” Back On As Gov. Scott Schedules First State Killing In 18 Months”

  1. Veteran says:


  2. Joe Kenda says:

    very good indeedy

  3. Knightwatch says:

    Civilized nations do not purposefully kill people. Civilized people do not condone state-sponsored murder. Shame on Florida and America for supporting the public execution of human beings, however flawed these people may be. There are other options to protect society.

  4. Pogo says:


    The pro death penalty crowd are in good company:

    10 Countries With The Most Executions

  5. Pogo says:


    The pro death penalty crowd are in good company:

    10 Countries With The Most Executions

    Previous post contains wrong url

  6. Anonymous says:

    Jesus was executed by the state.

  7. Sam says:

    These animals given the death penalty killed one or multiple people, who is looking out for them oh no one they are dead. Fire up sparky and lets get to work, eliminating the disease of society!

  8. Veteran says:

    We are lagging behind Pogo, looks like we need to step it up.

  9. JasonB says:

    Sad there are people who seem to take such delight in the taking of a life, it’s the same mentality as the people who showed up back in the day to watch a lynching.

  10. Pogo says:

    @Revenge killers and other Republicans

    Step it up? You’re way out of your league – as usual. If you really want to be in the major leagues of murder – you need to know what real killers do:

    Let’s start with Republicans like tricky ricky and his poison pen:

    Will losing health insurance mean more US deaths? Experts say yes

    Some other big league players:

    alcohol related deaths

    tobacco related deaths per year

    firearms deaths by country

    deaths from medical errors

    Most overrated? Here’s one:

    deaths from terrorism

  11. Katie Semore says:

    The U.S. is not in good company with respect to this issue. Those cheering it on should look in the mirror and ask WWJD? Tell us again what good Christians you are and why you are for some people being denied their human rights based on your religious beliefs but when it comes to state sponsored killing your religious beliefs count for nothing?

  12. Anonymous says:

    Can the families of those who have been executed previously sue the State of Florida for unconstitutionally putting their family member to death??? If any were executed on Rick Scott’s clock he should get out his check book. Is Medicare fraud any more of a crime than those Scott has ordered to death?

  13. Veteran says:

    Please, if one of your family members were murdered you’d be first in line to stick the needle in.

  14. Pogo says:

    @Revenge killers and other Republicans

    Why you are wrong.

    The death penalty is the ultimate denial of human rights, and that’s why Amnesty International opposes it in all cases and works to abolish it.

    rule of law – not men and mobs

    Fans of Moscow Don could do the rest of us a favor and emigrate to a country with their values:

    countries with death penalty

  15. Sadie says:

    @Katie, WWJD? Hmmmm….I believe there is a passage in the Bible dealing with just this…an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth….those lines would cover “a life for a life”.

  16. Pogo says:

    @Revenge killers and other Republicans who quote scripture and hear Jesus

    19 Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.
    Romans 12:19 KJV

    38 Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth:

    39 But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.

    40 And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also.

    41 And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.

    42 Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.
    Matthew 5:38-42 KJV

    WWJD? Maybe He would say stop speaking evil in His name.

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