Fight Back with Us
I am sad to share with you that yesterday, Governor DeSantis, signed the fourth death warrant of 2023. Duane Owen is scheduled to be executed on Thursday, June 15, at 6 pm.
In less than 4 months, and fueled by apparent political ambition, the Governor has executed Donald Dillbeck, Louis Gaskin, and just a week ago today, Darryl Barwick. When the news of the latest warrant came out yesterday, my fear was that our allies would begin to tire, to stop showing up, to stay quiet. I need you to show me this is not true.
Please read about Duane’s case below and sign the petition here, urging the Governor to stay the execution and grant clemency.
Duane Owen’s story is not new – he was born to alcoholic parents. His mother died of cancer. Shortly after his mother’s death, his father committed suicide. So, at just 9 years old, Duane became an orphan and a ward of the state. He was sent to an orphanage where he was sexually and physically abused. He was forced to have sex with a 35-year-old childcare director, someone who was supposed to protect him.
He is a person with severe mental illness and brain damage. He suffers from delusions and his frontal lobe brain impairments caused a compulsion to act which he could not control. All of this formed the basis of an insanity defense at trial, which was well supported by expert testimony. Despite his young age (23) and his documented history of mental illness, he was interrogated for more than 72 hours, and courts would later find that his Miranda rights were violated.
While his jury ultimately rejected the insanity defense, two of his jurors in both of Duane’s trials found that his significant mitigation warranted a life sentence. Had Duane been tried under a constitutional system that requires unanimity, he would not be eligible for execution.
Does this story sound familiar to you? Unfortunately, Duane’s case has all the hallmarks of what is wrong with the death penalty – it targets the most vulnerable and the least protected in our society. And especially in Florida, and especially under this Governor, it seems clear that we are set on executing the sick and the broken.
Perhaps worse than that, it seems clear we are executing people not because they are “the most aggravated and least mitigated” as the law requires, but because their cases support a political agenda. This is the worst kind of premeditated, state-sanctioned killing. It also reeks of desperation and hypocrisy. Just last week, the Governor signed a bill allowing the death penalty for people who commit sex crimes against children – under the premise that the State of Florida cares about protecting children. Who was protecting 9-year-old Duane Owen when he was being raped by a 35-year-old? Who made sure he got treatment and help? What did anyone do to stop the cycle of violence?
If I sound angry, it is because I am. And yet, I do still firmly believe we are witnessing the last gasping breaths of Florida’s death penalty. We are witnessing what decades of opposition to Florida’s death penalty looks like. I know we will get there. And in the meantime, we will keep speaking up, we will keep showing up, and we will take care of each other. We are stronger than they are. Together.
P.S.: The State of Florida has executed three people this year for a total of 103 executions. Please consider a gift of $103 today.