Darius Kimbrough, who raped, beat and murdered 28-year-old Denise Collins in her Rio Grande Avenue apartment south of Orlando in 1991, is being executed by lethal injection at Florida’s Starke prison at 6 p.m. Tuesday, after 19 years on death row. Kimbrough is being killed on his mother’s birthday. He becomes the fifth inmate executed in Florida this year.
Kimbrough is the ninth Florida death row inmate to be executed since Gov. Rick Scott’s became governor less than three years ago. Five inmates were executed during Charlie Crist’s term. Fourteen were killed during Jeb Bush’s eight years.
Scott signed the 10th death warrant of his tenure for the execution of Askari Muhammad, also known as Thomas Knight, on Dec. 3.
Paramedics found Collins nude, semi-conscious and covered in blood in her bathroom. Kimbrough had fractured her jaw and the area around her left temple. The sliding-glass door to her second-floor apartment partially open. She was rushed to the hospital. She died soon after arriving there. An apartment complex resident told authorities he’d twice seen the same man in the vicinity of the apartment and had seen a ladder on the apartment’s balcony. The resident later picked Kimbrough out of a picture lineup. Kimbrough had also left DNA evidence at the scene. In days leading up to the murder, Collins had complained about being stalked by a man, whom she warned that she’d call the police of he continued.
Kimbrough’s defense attorney argued that the beatings were committed by Collins’s ex-boyfriend, Gary Boodhoo, as he had been with her shortly before the murder, had previously used a ladder to enter her apartment, and had beaten her previously, court records show. The evidence of a prior beating was excluded at trial.
A jury found Kimbrough guilty of burglary, rape and murder, but the sentencing phase resulted in a mistrial when three of the jurors were found to have read newspaper accounts of the trial after the guilty phase, and before the sentencing. (The trial took place in June and July 1991, before the age of the Internet.) A mistrial was declared. It wasn’t until Nov. 8, 1994 that a new jury was selected to hear the penalty phase. The jury recommended death 11-1. Florida and Alabama are the only states in the union where a unanimous verdict is not required for a death sentence, although Florida is the only state where a simple majority is enough. In Alabama, the majority must be at least 10-2.
The judge, court papers show, “considered age as a statutory mitigator (Kimbrough was nineteen), but rejected it because there was no evidence establishing that he was immature or impaired. The court considered the following nonstatutory mitigation: Kimbrough had an unstable childhood, maternal deprivation, an alcoholic father, a dysfunctional family, and a talent for singing. The court found that the mitigation did not temper the aggravators.”
“There’s no closure,” Collins’s mother, Diane Stewart, told the Orlando Sentinel. “There’s no forgiveness for him from either of us. No forgiveness whatsoever. Twenty-two years is outrageous. It’s just outrageous.”
As always, Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty is leading a vigil across the road from the Starke penitentiary, during the execution.
On Thursday, Sister Helen Prejean, the long-time opponent of the death penalty and the author of “Dead Man Walking and The Death of Innocents: an Eyewitness Account of Wrongful Executions” (2004), will be the guest lecturer at the School of Theology and Ministry at St. Thomas University in Miami. The lecture is scheduled for 7 p.m.
Prejean will lecture on the death penalty as the great moral issue facing this country, urging guests to explore and reflect. Sister Helen began her prison ministry and became spiritual adviser to Patrick Sonnier, the convicted killer of two teenagers, sentenced to die in the electric chair in 1984 in Louisiana’s electric chair. Since 1984, Prejean has divided her time between educating citizens about the death penalty and counseling individual death row prisoners and the families of murder victims. She has accompanied six men to their deaths.