Women and the Death Penalty in the United States, 1900-1998

By Kathleen A. O'Shea | Go to book overview

9
Florida: Electrocution

The state of Florida has given the death penalty to fifteen women since 1900. In 1998 Judi Buenoano became the first woman executed by electrocution in the state of Florida. There are four women on death row in Florida today.

Prior to 1923 the method of execution in Florida was hanging, carried out in the counties where the crime had been committed. In 1923 the state legislature declared electrocution the official mode of capital punishment; and the first inmate to be electrocuted in Florida was Frank Johnson, on October 7, 1924 ( Driggs, 1993). Between 1930 and 1990 there were a total of 195 executions by electrocution in Florida.

In June 1972 the U. S. Supreme Court declared capital punishment unconstitutional, and 95 men and one woman in Florida had their death sentences commuted to life. By December of that same year the Florida statutes were revised, and by July 1976 the Supreme Court approved the new statutes and found them to be constitutional. After a fifteen-year hiatus, executions resumed in Florida with the death by electrocution of John Spinkelink on May 25, 1979. Since 1976, Florida has executed 43 people.

The state's 75-year-old electric chair, located at the Florida State Prison in Starke, is made of oak and was constructed by inmates in 1923. Originally it was located at Union Correctional Institution, but was moved to Starke in 1962 when Florida's death row was transferred.


CAPITAL SENTENCING IN FLORIDA

Before Furman v. Georgia in 1972, when the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated existing death penalty statutes, Florida had what was known as the "mercy statute" in its capital sentencing scheme [(FLA.STAT. § 755.082 (1)( 1971)]. Under the "mercy statute," a death sentence was mandatory when a defendant

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