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Life on death row: Florida State Prison where the electric chair was the sole means of execution from 1924 until 2000  

Florida State Prison, in the small town of Starke, is a sprawling mass of gray concrete and barbed wire, approached by a road lined with palm trees and lush greenery. "This is what I call the green mile," says my guide Rosalie Bolin, "but at the end of it is hell." The prison houses death row and the execution chamber.

On the green mile we pass a hearse that, she tells me, is used exclusively by the prison. "No one wants to have their loved ones in a vehicle that has carried murderers," she says. "People see them as inhumane, and that is how they are treated, even in death."

Bolin has been involved in preparing mitigation arguments for defendants in capital cases for more than 20 years. There are currently 400 men and four women on death row in Florida and I am visiting Starke to explore America's shifting opinion on capital punishment. 

Capital punishment was suspended in the US from 1972 to 1976. Since the suspension was lifted, 1,280 people have been executed, most since 1990, though only 78 death sentences were passed in 2011, compared to 312 in 1995. Since 1973 more than 130 people have been released from death row after their convictions were overturned. From 2000-11, exonerations have averaged five a year. 

A majority of Floridians support the death penalty and opinion, unsurprisingly, is divided along political and religious lines. Three-quarters of Republican voters support state execution compared to just under half of Democrats. Catholics oppose the death penalty more than non-Catholics. Age is also a factor: Americans under the age of 30 are less likely to support the death penalty. 

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Emmet
August 1st, 2012
2:08 PM
The only facts you can take from this article are that the vast majority of people in the USA support the death penalty, especially those who have been the victim of crime. Justice should be swift however, with all appeals cleared within a year of the conviction.

Anonymous
July 5th, 2012
3:07 PM
Murdering another human being requires the strongest possible punishment. In any just system of law it requires that the murderer's own life be forfeit.

BeadyEye
July 3rd, 2012
8:07 PM
Police chiefs are just another species of politician, and should never be presumed to speak for rank-and-file cops.

BeadyEye
July 3rd, 2012
8:07 PM
It is disingenuous to erect every sort of barrier to implementation, and then complain that implementation is too expensive.

Rose P
July 3rd, 2012
5:07 PM
I agree with Ms. Bindel that the death penalty is wrong for many reasons. I have for a long time thought that we should abolish the death penalty and replace it with life imprisonment without the possibility of parole but with the possibility of assisted suicide.

BlueStrikes
July 3rd, 2012
3:07 PM
PresidentD, just because the constitution recognises it does not make it right - at the end of the day, the U.S. Constitution is just a piece of paper, as are human rights conventions. And a piece of paper, no matter how fancy, cannot determine the morality of the death penalty. Ms. Bindel is not taking issue with the legal aspect of the death penalty; she objects against the morality of it. Therefore, it is incorrect to rebut her using the constitution. Her reference to human rights conventions is founded on the implicit assumption that those conventions are an accurate depiction of actual morality. Whether this is the case or not may be debated. Indeed, reconsidering this article, Ms. Bindel does not focus on moral arguments against the death penalty but rather focuses on practical considerations: efficiency and effectiveness. These are issues that should be responded to, not dismissed with a handwaved 'specious arguments'.

PresidentD
June 27th, 2012
9:06 PM
Ms. Bindel, we've heard all of your specious arguments against the death penalty countless times before. And no, it does not "contravene every human rights convention", whatever that means. The U.S. Constitution is the highest law America recognizes, and it permits the death penalty. The handwringing clowns at the U.N., Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch can take a hike.

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