SJR 124 & HJR 951 Letter
Florida Council of Churches
924 North Magnolia Avenue, Suite 304
Orlando, FL 32803
www.floridachurches.org Florida Catholic Conference
313 S. Calhoun Street
Tallahassee, FL 32301-1807
March 15, 2001
In Opposition to SJR 124 & HJR 951
Dear President McKay and Speaker Feeney:
The Florida Council of Churches and the Florida Catholic Conference join in expressing opposition to Senate Joint Resolution 124 and House Joint Resolution 951, which seek to elevate the Death Penalty to the Florida Constitution. The Council and the Conference, advocates of dignity and respect for all human life, have each issued statements in opposition to the Death Penalty, and have issued joint statements on two occasions seeking its review and cessation.
This proposal comes at a time when thousands of Floridians have submitted petitions for a moratorium on the use of the death penalty. We are troubled by analysts claims that this amendment will allow executions of juveniles, that it will impede the ability to assess proportionality in sentencing, and will modify our Constitution s limitation on punishment over the entire criminal code, not just the Death Penalty.
There is no need to enshrine the Death Penalty in the Constitution. Florida is today executing people in keeping with the existing Constitution, and sentencing more to death each year. At the same time, more Florida inmates have been exonerated after long terms on death row than any other state in the country.
Under Florida law, in accordance with today’s Constitution, there are two options for sentencing a person convicted of first degree murder: a death sentence, or life imprisonment without parole. The latter optional punishment is not mentioned in the proposed amendment, yet it is far more acceptable to Floridians than the death penalty.
Death Penalty practice in Florida tolerates questions of racial bias, allows for the execution of the mentally retarded, for the ability of a jury to vote for the death penalty by 7-5 verdict, and for the ability of a judge to override a jury verdict of life imprisonment. Procedural bars often prevent later discovered evidence and refined DNA science that could prove an inmate s innocence, with potentially terrible consequences.
The European Union, the United Nations, Amnesty International and other international bodies have condemned the Death Penalty. Our nation stands out against the Western World which has abandoned its use. Pope John Paul II has appealed for specific Florida inmates, who were later executed, and has called for a consensus against the use of the Death Penalty. Many of the constituencies of the Florida Council of Churches have likewise done so.
Respectfully we submit the need for a moratorium on the Death Penalty,
to study its many faults. We urge the rejection of SJR 124/HJR 951.
The Reverend Fred Morris
Florida Council of Churches D. Michael McCarron, Ph.D.
Florida Catholic Conference
cc: All Members of the Florida Senate and Florida House of Representatives
Members of The Florida Council of Churches:
African Methodist Episcopal
African Methodist Episcopal
Zion American Catholic Church
Catholic Church of the Antiochean Rite
Central Florida Presbytery Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Christian Methodist Episcopal Church
Church of the Brethren Episcopal Diocese of Central Florida
Episcopal Diocese of Florida
Episcopal Diocese of Southeast Florida
Episcopal Diocese of Southwest Florida
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Florida Fellowship of Community Churches
Florida General Baptist Convention
Florida Presbytery Moravian Church
Phillppine Independent Catholic Church
Presbyterian Church, U.S.A.
Presbytery of St. Augustine
Presbytery of Tropical Florida
Presbytery of Tampa Bay
Peace River Presbytery
Reorganized Church of Jesus
Christ of Latter Day Saints
Southeastern Yearly Meeting, Religious Society of Friends
United Church of Christ
United Methodist Church
Church World Service
Church Women United
Florida Coalition Against the Death Penalty
Florida Impact Lutheran Ministries
FIND (Florida Interfaith Networking in Disaster)
Florida Catholic Conference:
Archbishop John C. Favalora, Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Miami
Bishop John J. Snyder, Bishop of the Diocese of St. Augustine
Bishop Robert N. Lynch, Bishop of the Diocese of St. Petersburg
Bishop Norbert M. Dorsey, C.P., Bishop of the Diocese of Orlando
Bishop John H. Ricard, S.S.J., Bishop of the Diocese of Pensacola/Tallahassee
Bishop Anthony J. O Connell, Bishop of the Diocese of Palm Beach
Bishop John J. Nevins, Bishop of the Diocese of Venice
Bishop Agustin A. Roman, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Miami
Bishop Gilberto Fernandez, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Miami
Bishop Thomas A. Wenski, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Miami
Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty
2603 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Hwy
Gainesville, FL 32609