Families of murder victims call for Duval County, Florida to suspend the death penalty

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.

55 family members signed a letter released today by EJUSA and Murder Victims Families for Reconciliation (MVFR).

“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.”

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Religious leaders call for suspension of the death penalty in Duval County, FL

Duval Religious Leaders press conferenceMore than 20 Duval County, Florida, religious leaders participated in an EJUSA press conference in front of the County Courthouse today. They gathered in reaction to a report from the Fair Punishment Project branding Duval County an “outlier” in its overuse of the death penalty. Clergy released a letter to the State Attorney’s Office signed by over 50 religious leaders from throughout the region, demanding a halt to death penalty prosecutions in their county.

“Duval County represents everything that is wrong with the small and shrinking number of counties that are still using the death penalty in America,” said EJUSA Executive Director Shari Silberstein. “They all suffer from overzealous prosecutors, ineffective defense lawyers, and racial bias, which helps to explain why Florida leads the nation with 26 death row exonerations.”

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Unconstitutional – an update from CCATDP

The latest sign that the death penalty is falling out of favor comes from Delaware, where earlier this month, the State Supreme Court struck down Delaware’s capital punishment statute as unconstitutional. The Court found that judges rather than juries wielded far too much power in determining who received a death sentence. The Delaware Attorney General has announced that his office will not appeal the ruling, which makes Delaware the latest in a growing number of states to scrap capital punishment.

Support for the death penalty is also shrinking across the United States. Two recently released polls show how unpopular capital punishment is becoming. According to the surveys, around 72% of Kentuckians and 53% of Oklahomans prefer alternatives to the death penalty.

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Sign on for families of homicide victims

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Dawn Mancarella, a member of EJUSA’s Crime Survivor Network, put out a special appeal today for family members of murder victims to sign on to suspend use of the death penalty in a key Florida county.

If you’ve lost a family member to murder, read Dawn’s letter below and consider taking action. If you know of others who might like to sign, please share this post.


Dear friend,

I know the horrible pain of losing a loved one to murder. My mom, Joyce Masury, was murdered 20 years ago, and my life has never been the same.

You’ve identified yourself to EJUSA or an EJUSA state partner as someone who has experienced this same unimaginable horror. So you understand where I’m coming from.

Today, I am signing an open letter for families like us calling for an end to the death penalty. Would you like to join me?

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Death penalty chaos around the country

Death penalty chaos around the country

Nevada just became the ninth death penalty state to go a decade or more without an execution. Add those nine to the 19 states without capital punishment, and you have 28 states that have abandoned executions in either law or practice.

And in the remaining states? The death penalty is in complete chaos.

Florida’s death penalty law has already been thrown out twice in 2016. The first ruling came from the U.S. Supreme Court in January. The Florida legislature then passed a “fix” to the law, and last month a Miami judge threw it out again. Alabama’s death penalty law is similar to Florida’s, and the Supreme Court sent a death sentence back for review for the third time this week because of those similarities.

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CCATDP’s Marc Hyden on Tipping Point with Liz Wheeler

Last week, I was a guest on Tipping Point with Liz Wheeler to discuss Oklahoma’s damning grand jury report on their lethal injection scandal and Florida’s unconstitutional death penalty. You can watch the segment below:

Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty (CCATDP), a project of Equal Justice USA, is a network of political and social conservatives who question the alignment of capital punishment with conservative principles and values. For news and updates from CCATDP, join their email list.

Libertarian and pro-life conferences highlight death penalty repeal

Ben and Kathleen at the Life/Peace/Justice Conference Conservatives Concerned about the Death Penalty (CCATDP), a project of EJUSA, crisscrossed the country in April. CCATDP’s National Coordinator Marc Hyden made trips to Tennessee and Utah, while I traveled to Orlando for the Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) Florida State Convention and then to Philadelphia for the Life/Peace/Justice Conference. Our participation in these conferences reflects the interest in CCATDP across a variety of different constituencies, including libertarian and pro-life groups.

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Another Family harmed by murder and the fight over the death penalty

Shelby Farah at graduationShelby Farah was a bright, compassionate, determined 20-year-old when she was shot to death during a robbery at the Metro-PCS store where she worked. Shelby’s murder shocked the community in Jacksonville, Florida, and her family has spent the last two and a half years grieving their loss.

The death penalty has added to this trauma, as they have been forced to endure an extended legal process, increased media scrutiny, their own complex feelings about the death penalty, and a polarizing, public debate about it at a time when they need each other most.

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Huge strides made in repeal efforts in Delaware

Delaware Black Leaders for Repeal press conference

Lawmakers in Delaware allowed a bill to repeal the death penalty to get a full debate on the House floor for the first time. The bill had been stuck in the House Judiciary Committee for the last several years.

The growing coalition in Delaware is fired up at having broken through the logjam. Though the bill did not pass, the fight is not over. In fact, there is still a chance the bill will have another day on the House floor in 2016.

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Supreme Court’s next death penalty case looks at roles of judge, jury

Supreme Court Building

Continuing its look at death penalty, the Supreme Court will hear argument on Tuesday in Hurst v. Florida1 to decide whether Florida’s practices in capital trials are constitutional. At issue in Hurst is whether a judge properly imposed a death sentence without the necessary fact-finding by a jury. Florida is one of the few states that gives capital sentencing power to judges.

The Supreme Court specifically approved Florida’s death penalty law in 1976, along with those in Georgia and Texas.2 They were the first states to reinstate the death penalty after the 1972 Supreme Court decision in Furman v. Georgia3 declaring death penalty laws in violation of the Eighth Amendment. The Court gave the Florida law its blessing despite concerns that the ultimate sentencing authority was the judge. Several years later, the Court specifically rejected a challenge to a death sentence imposed by a Florida judge even though a jury had recommended a life sentence.4

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