Tonight, by killing Darryl Barwick, we the People of the State of Florida also killed the belief that redemption matters. That remorse matters. That people, especially those who are sentenced to die as teenagers, are capable of change. This execution cements the short-sighted notion that people are irrevocably defined by the worst thing they have ever done.
This is the third premeditated murder by the State in 70 days. We are no safer. The death penalty does not deter crime – any casual reading of any given day’s headlines will tell you that. It cannot bring back Rebecca Wendt, whose life was tragically taken by 19-year-old Darryl Barwick nearly 37 years ago.
If you look at the rest of the civilized world, the United States is an outlier when it comes to the death penalty. And if you look inside the United States, Florida is the most extreme outlier in every conceivable way. We now have the lowest standard to sentence someone to death. We have expanded the death penalty for non-homicide crimes. We have the most death row exonerations in the nation, and the highest death row population of states that conduct executions. Is this who we want to be?
Darryl came into this world unwanted and unloved. His mother tried to abort him by throwing herself down the stairs. The violence he witnessed and endured as a child is unimaginable. You would not allow your child to spend 5 minutes in the Barwick home, yet Darryl didn’t have a choice. He was brutally beaten and abused; he witnessed his father rape his mother on more than one occasion. It is hardly a surprise then, that without intervention, the cycle of violence persisted and sent him to death row as a teenager.
That is where Darryl’s story finally shifted. He grew up in prison. His brain finished developing. Though it was still prison, he was not subjected to constant physical violence at the hands of those supposed to protect him. He developed relationships. He’s had a pen pal, a Sister of Mercy and a Professor Emeritus at a university, for nearly 30 years. His spiritual advisor has visited him regularly over the years and brought him peace and comfort in their shared Catholic faith. He wasn’t a disciplinary problem. His neighbor on death row was legally blind, and Darryl helped him navigate everything.
Darryl expressed his deep regret and remorse at his brief and inadequate clemency hearing two years ago, “I’m guilty…I am sorry…I regret what I did…I don’t know if ever you could, you know, redeem yourself back from something like that, but I have tried.”
Just last week as he watched the days pass towards his own murder, Darryl asked these words to be shared, “Yes, I will die but that will not be the end…I do believe because I feel God is with me, it is why I am…at peace.”
Regardless of your spiritual beliefs on the afterlife, we know that Darryl’s body is dead and gone from this Earth now. But conducting executions, and making it easier for the state to kill, sends a clear message redemption, remorse, and restoration have no place in the State of Florida. Ask yourself again, is this who we want to be?
FADP is a Florida-based, state-wide organization of individuals and groups working together to end the death penalty in Florida. Our network includes dozens of state and local groups and thousands of individual Floridians, including murder victims’ family members and other survivors of violent crime, law enforcement professionals, families of the incarcerated, and death row exonerations.