Thursday, January 15, 2015

Death becomes no one: Latest scheduled Florida execution raises questions

Posted By on Thu, Jan 15, 2015 at 4:59 PM

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Say what you want about the death penalty and Florida's seeming propensity toward proving its worth via tough-on-crime shots of drugs that might or might not achieve their mortality goal, but this particular case, even with its troublesome back story, gives us pause. In a matter of minutes, Johnny "Shane" Kormondy will be executed. His crime is terrible, and, if the ruling is to be believed, punishable in the worst possible way. But he is also, according to others, somebody who got the short end of the legal stick on the whole deal. You can read more about the incident here. And this, from lawyer Kristina Musante, makes us cringe at the potential for error in Florida's death row speed walking. 

Florida is set to execute a man who never killed anyone,

while allowing the shooter to live

By, Kristina Musante, JD


On January 15th 2015 at 6:00 pm, Florida will continue the shockingly efficient and error-ridden execution policies’ of Governor Rick Scott. The state is set to execute its first man for the New Year. His name is Johnny ‘Shane’ Kormondy and he did not kill anyone. While, it is our expectation, as the people of Florida, that we reserve the death penalty only for murderers, the “worst of the worst” criminals, it is not the reality of how the death penalty is applied. As in this case of Shane Kormondy, and all too often, we the people of Florida are set to execute a man who never killed anyone, while we allow the shooter to live.


It is often said the more you know about the death penalty, the less likely you are to support it. It is because the death penalty does not kill-off the “worst of the worst” as we imagine. It kills the poorest of the poor and those with the lowest IQ’s, nearly exclusively. It takes resources and very experienced legal representation to avoid execution. If a death sentence is on the lips’ of the prosecutor, an unimaginably complex and vigorous defense, that begins at arrest, is critical to saving the life of the accused. Unfortunately, the poor and mentally disabled are the least able to have access to these life-saving resources. As a result, we tragically execute “weakest of the weak,” rather than “worst of the worst” among us.


Florida leads the nation in convictions of innocent men that have since been exonerated and set free. The risk of mistake in executing an innocent man is shockingly high in Florida. It is estimated that 25%, or 1 in 4 death sentences are in error in Florida. This is supported by the facts, that of Florida’s 89 death sentences, 25 to date have been found to be errors and convictions of innocent men. It is very likely more innocent people sit on Florida’s death row awaiting a wrongful execution. That kind of irreversible error with regard to executions is reckless and criminal. It is unconscionable that the Governor has not declared a moratorium on executions due to this horrifying level of irreversible mistake. Instead Florida’s Governor has accelerated executions, by executing 20 people during his term in office, giving him the notorious distinction of executing more people than any other Florida Governor in modern times. It is clear Floridians must demand a one-year moratorium on executions to avoid killing innocent people.


In the present case of Shane Kormondy, it is the unfair, arbitrary, and absurd application of the death penalty that is unsettling. Because, even though a co-defendant has confessed to being the shooter of Gary McAdams and evidence verifies this confession, it is Shane Kormondy who will be put to death on January 15, 2015, for this crime. Kormondy’s co-defendants Curtis Bufkin and James Hazen both have received life without parole sentences, while Shane Kormondy, who is less culpable than Bufkin, received a death sentence. Shane Kormondy should receive the same protections from the death penalty as his co-defendants but he will not because he is poor, and was the least well-represented by legal counsel.


Initially, co-defendant James Hazen received a death sentence as well, but it was reduced to life without parole by the Florida Supreme Court. The Court cited the ruling in Furman v. Georgia, which protects defendants from the “arbitrary and capricious” application of the death penalty. The idea behind the Furman ruling was to insure the death penalty is applied fairly and only for the ‘worst of the worst’, but its protections is allusive.


The Florida Supreme Court found because James Hazen was less culpable than Curtis Bufkin and received a harsher sentence, this was in violation of the Furman ruling and Hazen’s sentence was reduced to life without parole. Under this logic and rule of law, Shane Kormondy should be afforded the same mercy and protections, and his death sentence should be reduced to equal that of the ring leader and admitted-shooter, Curtis Bufkin. If the death penalty were applied fairly, Shane Kormondy would receive a sentence of life without parole, but instead he is set to be executed. Thus, while it is absurd and unimaginable, we the people of Florida will be executing a man who never killed anyone, while allowing the shooter to live.


As Floridians and advocates of life, we must demand a moratorium on the death penalty in Florida and stay of execution for Shane Kormondy. We must demand a moratorium because of Florida’s extremely high likelihood of executing an innocent person, Florida’s unfair application of the death penalty, and lastly, because it costs an additional $51 million per year over and above the cost of life without parole to attempt to enforce the death penalty. At best Florida’s current death penalty policy, answers murder with murder; and at worst it answers innocence with murder- at a huge cost.


Immediately, we must demand a stay of execution for Shane Kormondy and reduction of his sentence. Please send appeals for a a stay and for a moratorium to Governor Rick Scott at rick.scott@eog.myflorida.com or Fax to 805-414-6031 or mail to Office of Governor, The Capital, 400 S. Monroe Street, Tallahassee, FL. 32399-0001. 


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