Dear Governor DeSantis and Florida Board of Executive Clemency:
We, the undersigned faith leaders reflecting a rich diversity of faith traditions, stand together to urge you to stay the execution of Donald Dillbeck, and commute his sentence to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
We firmly believe that Mr. Dillbeck should be separated from society and held accountable for his actions. We simply pray that in doing so, we do not lose sight of the humanity and compassion that our faiths teach us to honor.
In our congregations, we are frequently in contact with crime victims and survivors, convicted criminals and their family members, lawyers, judges, police, correctional officers, and others who give us a unique view into the complexities of the criminal justice system. We feel deeply the pain and grief of our church members when violence or loss of life is visited upon them. We are guided by the biblical teachings that call for a community “to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8).
We have been made aware that confirmed medical diagnoses establish that Donald has permanent and significant brain damage from prenatal alcohol exposure, which plagued his early childhood. This brain damage was compounded by the horrific physical and sexual abuse he suffered at the hands of his alcoholic mother. When he was finally removed from her custody and put into the foster care system, he was not offered any psychological treatment. Unsurprisingly, as a teenager, he succumbed to drug and alcohol addiction as a means to cope with his childhood trauma.
Four members of his original death penalty jury heard the compelling mitigation of his horrific childhood and his brain damage from prenatal alcohol exposure and voted for a life sentence. In no other state in the country would he have ended up on death row with this vote.
In the decades since his 1990 crime, he has been committed to redemption. While on death row, he got clean and sober. He developed meaningful relationships with friends on the outside who still support him today. He found solace in prayer and meditation. He has had no violent incidents in the last three decades. Executing Donald won’t make our state any safer. Instead, it says the State of Florida doesn’t care about protecting vulnerable children, and it flatly rejects the notion that redemption is always possible.
As faith leaders, we believe that our justice system should be used to improve life, not destroy it. Our system must be humane and hold life sacred, while taking every step possible to support and facilitate the healing of victims.
Click here to download a pdf of the letter and signatures.