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Inmates Executed in Florida at a Glance

Published: Jul 4, 2003

Florida has executed 56 inmates since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976. The following are thumbnail descriptions of the 54 men and two women:

1. John Spenkelink, 30, was the first person in the United States unwillingly executed in the modern era of capital punishment. Spenkelink was condemned for the Feb. 3, 1973, slaying of Joseph J. Szymankiewicz, 43, an Ohio parole violator, in a Tallahassee motel room. Spenkelink, a California prison escapee, said Szymankiewicz stole $8,000 from him, forced him to commit homosexual acts and play Russian roulette with a pistol. The May 25, 1979, execution sparked an investigation after there were allegations that Spenkelink fought his electrocution, resisted the guards that shaved his head and was gagged and silenced before being placed in the electric chair. There were also allegations that cotton was stuffed in his rectum and his mouth was taped shut. An investigation determined most of the allegations were false, but reporters and other witnesses watched as inmates were strapped into the electric chair during all subsequent executions.


2. At the time of his execution on Nov. 30, 1983, Robert Sullivan had been on death row longer than anyone in the United States - more than 10 years. Sullivan, 36, was executed for the April 8, 1973, slaying of Donald Schmidt, an assistant manager at a Howard Johnson restaurant in Homestead, where Sullivan had worked. Sullivan, the adopted son of a Harvard-educated doctor, and his boyfriend, Reid McLaughlin, abducted Schmidt, taped his wrists behind his back and drove him to a swampy area, where they shot him twice in the head with a double barrel shotgun. When arrested, Sullivan had a shotgun, a handgun, white adhesive tape and Schmidt's credit cards. Sullivan confessed to the murder and implicated McLaughlin. McLaughlin also confessed, but entered into a plea bargain with the state and received a life sentence for his testimony at Sullivan's trial, Sullivan was convicted in November 1973 and the jury recommended a life sentence. The trial judge imposed the death penalty.


3. Anthony Antone, 66, was executed on Jan. 26, 1984, for masterminding the Oct. 23, 1975, contract killing of Tampa private detective Richard Cloud. The detective was killed in a hit ordered by crime boss Victor Acosta. Antone's job was to hire two hit men. Acosta and the man who pulled the trigger committed suicide. The second hit man, Ellis Haskew turned state's evidence against Antone. Antone testified in his own behalf and denied participation in the murder-for-hire scheme.


4. Arthur F. Goode III, 30, was enthralled with 13-year-old television child actor Ricky Schroeder and carried the youth's picture around with him. Goode was executed April 5, 1984, for killing 9-year-old Jason Verdow of Cape Coral on March 5, 1976. He also was convicted and sentenced to life in prison in the slaying of Kenneth Dawson, 9, in Falls Church, Va. Both slayings occurred after he had escaped from a mental hospital in Baltimore, Md. On the day before his execution, Goode, a pedophile, fantasized about surviving his execution and getting away free. "I don't want people to think I'm crazy because I like molesting children. I'm competent ... I'm aware that what I've done is wrong. I'm proud of the fact that I murdered two boys as protest to society." In his last statement, however, he said, "I have remorse for the two boys I murdered. But it's hard for me to show it."


5. James Adams, 47, became the first black man executed in Florida since 1964 when he was electrocuted May 10, 1984, for the beating death of millionaire Fort Pierce rancher Edgar Brown. Brown was beaten to death with a fireplace poker during a 1973 robbery. Adams' Rambler was seen leaving the scene. Later, items from Brown's house were found in a car belonging to Adams' wife. At the time, Adams had escaped from a prison in Tennessee where he was serving a 99-year sentence for rape. Racism and innocence were the basis for his unsuccessful appeals.


6. Carl Shriner, 30, died in the electric chair for the June 20, 1984, killing of 32-year-old Gainesville convenience store clerk Judith Ann Carter, who was shot five times. The murder occurred while he was on parole for armed robbery. One of 10 children, Shriner began his life of crime when he was 8-years-old.


7. The case of David L. Washington led to the U.S. Supreme Court's decision on the quality of counsel guaranteed to indigent inmates. Washington was executed June 13, 1984, for the murders of three Dade County residents during a 10-day span in 1976. In his final statement, Washington apologized to the victims' survivors, saying, "I'm sorry for all the grief and heartache I have brought to them. If my death brings any satisfaction, so be it.".


8. Ernest John Dobbert Jr., 46, was condemned for the 1971 killing of his 9-year-old daughter, Kelly Ann, and second-degree murder for killing a son, Ryder. Their bodies were never found. The jury voted 10-2 in favor of life in prison, but the judge overrode the verdict and sentenced Dobbert to death. Dobbert was executed on Sept. 7, 1984 after a tearful reconciliation with another daughter, Honore.


9. James Dupree Henry, 34, turned down a deal which would have allowed him to plead guilty to the March 23, 1984, slaying of Orlando civil rights leader Zellie Riley in exchange for a life sentence. Henry broke into Riley's home with the intention of robbing him. He took $64 and some credit cards. Riley died of strangulation from the gag Henry put in his mouth. The jury voted to 7-5 to recommend death and Henry was executed on Sept. 20, 1984.


10. Timothy Palmes, 33, was executed Nov. 8, 1984, for the Oct. 4, 1976, stabbing death of Jacksonville furniture store owner James N. Stone. Palmes was a co-defendant with Ronald Straight, executed May 20, 1986. Stone was lured to the Jacksonville apartment of his secretary, where Straight and Palmes attacked him with a hammer. They bound his hands and feet with wire and placed him in a wooden box they had built. For about 30 minutes they beat him, amputated several of his fingers and tortured him. Stone begged for his life. With a butcher knife and machete, Straight and Palmes stabbed Stone 18 times and tossed the wooden box in the St. Johns River. They took his money, watch and car and his secretary, Jane Allen, took $2,800 from the store. They were arrested in California.


AP-ES-07-04-03 1045EDT

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