Florida bishops ask governor to stop state executions

Bishop Victor Galeone
Bishop Victor Galeone


The archbishops and bishops of Florida have delivered a letter to Florida Governor Charlie Crist urging him to stop executions in the state, beginning with the scheduled July 1 execution of Mark Dean Schwab.

According to Florida Today, Mark Dean Schwab was convicted in 1992 of kidnapping, raping, and killing 11-year-old Junny Rios-Martinez.

“We can never fully comprehend the pain the victim’s family feels after losing their loved one and we extend our sincere sympathy to the family of Junny Rios-Martinez, the victim in this crime. But killing someone because they killed only perpetuates violence and coarsens the public’s attitude about the sanctity of life, including the lives of those who have committed grave offenses,” the bishops’ letter said.

In their June 25 letter, the bishops said they recognize the right of the State to impose the death penalty. However, they said that Florida should join “the growing number of states who are re-examining the death penalty.” Findings of racial bias and “serious problems” in Florida’s death penalty system, the bishops said, were also a cause for concern.

“The recurring question of innocence, the exorbitant cost, the inconsistency in sentencing, and the capriciousness of who is executed, each calls for re-examination,” the bishops wrote.

“Governor Crist, you can set a new standard of respect for life in Florida, turning away from execution and imposing a life sentence without possibility of parole for Mark Dean Schwab,” the letter said. “Incarceration allows the wrongdoer the possibility of conversion and the ability to make public restitution for crimes through life imprisonment.”

The bishops said they pray for Schwab’s victim Junny Rios-Martinez, his family, the governor, and for all those on death row, that “we all will acknowledge God as the Lord of Life, and that we all may learn, not only to obey the commandment not to kill human life, but also to revere it.”

Bishop of St. Augustine Victor Galeone, who is also episcopal moderator for the State Pro-Life Coordinating Committee of the Florida Catholic Conference, spoke separately, saying, "The Lord commands us to forgive, just as our heavenly Father has forgiven us.  It is only through the process of forgiveness that we are healed and our suffering can be alleviated.”

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