Catholic bishops appeal for life of Florida inmate as deadline nears

Florida Governor Charlie Crist
Florida Governor Charlie Crist

.- A judge has denied a request to delay the execution of a Florida death row inmate convicted of rape and murder. The convict’s attorney claims his accomplice confessed to the murder instead, while the state’s Catholic bishops have appealed to the governor for a stay of execution.

John Richard Marek was convicted in the 1983 killing of Adela Marie Simmons. Despite the concerns of a friend, she accepted a ride from Marek and his co-defendant Raymond Wigley after her car had broken down. Her body was found raped and strangled near a lifeguard stand on a beach the next afternoon.

Wigley was sentenced to life in prison and was killed there in 2000. Marek was sentenced to death in 1984 at the age of 22.

Marek’s attorney Martin J. McClain asked Circuit Judge Jeffrey Levenson to hear the testimony of a prison inmate who claims Wigley once confessed to the killing. Six other inmates had testified last week that Wigley had confessed to the murder.  The Palm Beach Post reports that Judge Levenson dismissed their claims and was upheld by the Florida Supreme Court.

Jean Trach, a friend of Simmons who had tried to persuade her not to leave with the men, said she has had persistent nightmares that Marek would leave prison and get her.

Sometimes she has wondered whether Marek should be executed, but she now wants the case to be over.

"He keeps getting chance after chance," she told the Palm Beach Post. "My friend didn't get any chances."

The Bishops of Florida on Monday released a copy of their letter to Republican Florida Gov. Charlie Crist asking him to stay the execution and commute the sentence to life in prison.

Marek’s execution is scheduled for Wednesday August 19.

“Even those who have done great harm are human beings with dignity, created in the image and likeness of God. Life in prison without possibility of parole satisfies the need for punishment and allows the inmate the opportunity to reflect on their offenses and feel sorrow for the pain they have caused others,” the bishops wrote.

Their letter said that executions do not make society safer and do not act as a deterrent but rather add to daily violence and numb people “to the truth that every human being has worth.”

“We express our genuine sympathy for the victim, Adella Marie Simmons, and her loved ones,” the bishops said. “The media attention surrounding executions brings back the pain experienced by victims through the recounting of the crime details. The death of the convicted does not heal the wounds of those grieving the loss of a family member or friend.”

Noting that many U.S. states are reconsidering the death penalty as a punishment, they implored Gov. Crist to commute Marek’s sentence and to declare a moratorium on executions in Florida.


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