Monday, April 21, 2008

Editorial: Use death penalty, but use it carefully

Convicted child rapist and killer Mark Dean Schwab will finally face his punishment, now that the U.S. Supreme Court has affirmed this month that lethal injection is fair and just.

Schwab was convicted of raping and killing 11-year-old Junny Rios-Martinez Jr. in 1991 in Brevard County.

Harold Lucas was sentenced to die in 1977 for the murder of Jill Piper in Bonita Springs. He is the longest serving death row inmate from Southwest Florida.

There are 338 death row inmates in the state of Florida - 16 from Southwest Florida, and we agree with Gov. Charlie Crist's assertion that "justice delayed is justice denied."

Crist last year ended a death penalty moratorium, imposed by his predecessor Jeb Bush, based on concerns that the method used to kill inmates was cruel and unusual.

Florida held no executions in 2007. The Supreme Court decision opened the door to resume the practice.

We have argued that we would like to see Florida move from a three-drug cocktail to the use of one lethal drug, sodium pentothal, because of concerns by critics that the cocktail does not kill fast enough and may cause pain.

Our editorial board supports capital punishment, but we also want to ensure that those on death row are in fact guilty of the crimes of which the state accuses them.

Death row inmate exonerations based on later evidence, in states such as Illinois, require us to be especially cautious.

That said, when inmates - who are proven again and again guilty of their heinous crimes - languish for decades, the state and our society lose financially and the families and friends of the victims suffer unnecessarily.


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