Families of murder victims from across the country are calling on the Duval County State Attorney’s Office to demand a halt to the county’s use of the death penalty due to the harm it inflicts on surviving families.
“The lengths to which Duval County will go in its pursuit of the death penalty has been on display after the 2013 murder of Shelby Farah,” the families wrote in the letter. “Despite her mother’s request that her family be spared a death penalty case and the lengthy process it entails, prosecutors continue to seek it.”
“Duval County has sought the death penalty with essentially no regard for the harm it causes murder victims’ families,” said Shari Silberstein, Executive Director of EJUSA. “In less than a year, Florida’s death penalty law has been struck down twice as unconstitutional, leaving it in legal limbo. It’s the surviving families who are left to suffer the inevitable uncertainty of a death sentence. It’s no surprise that Darlene Farah has fought so hard to avoid such a fate.”
The letter comes on the heels of a scathing report from Harvard Law School’s Fair Punishment Project calling Duval County an “outlier” among U.S. counties in its overuse of the death penalty. The study found that Duval County is responsible for a quarter of death sentences in Florida, despite being only 5% of the state’s population. There are over 3,000 counties nationwide, but only 16 including Duval that produced five or more death sentences between 2010 and 2015.
“The death penalty has divided victims’ family members in Duval County and the State Attorney’s Office has attacked a family for wanting to avoid the lengthy legal process of a capital case,” said Jack Sullivan, Jr., Executive Director of MVFR. “This conduct is deeply troubling. We need a criminal justice system responsive to the needs of murder victims’ families. The death penalty fails in advancing this goal.”