Ahead of Florida Execution, Bishops Renew Calls Against Death Penalty

The Catholic bishops cited Pope Francis’s appeal to end the death penalty in their message to Gov. Rick Scott.

Florida Department of Corrections execution chamber 1
Florida Department of Corrections execution chamber 1 (photo: Florida Department of Corrections)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Stating that capital punishment is not necessary in the modern-day U.S., Florida’s Catholic bishops have asked the state governor to commute the death sentence of inmate Jerry Correll, who is scheduled to be executed Thursday.

“Everyone, even people who have caused great harm, possess a human dignity that is sacred. State-sanctioned killing is unwarranted, promotes vengeance rather than justice and reinforces a growing disrespect for the sacredness of all human life,” the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops said Oct. 27.

They appealed to Florida Gov. Rick Scott to commute the sentence to life in prison without parole.

“Spending the remainder of one’s life in prison is a severe punishment, which allows for the prospect of conversion for the sinner and the opportunity to forgive the aggressor’s wrongdoings.”

Correll was convicted in the 1985 murders of his ex-wife, their 5-year-old daughter and his ex-wife’s mother and sister.

His execution had been scheduled for February, but was delayed pending a U.S. Supreme Court decision about the use of the drug midazolam in executions, the Orlando Sentinel reports. The court approved the use of the drug in July.

Florida’s bishops said Correll deserved “a just punishment,” but not execution. They cited Pope Francis’ call for an end to the death penalty in his Sept. 24 address to a joint meeting of Congress during his U.S. visit.

The Pope had said “a just and necessary punishment must never exclude the dimension of hope.”

The bishops added: “Through advances in our penal system, the state can keep society safe from an aggressor and justice can be served without resorting to the deliberate taking of a person’s life.”

Twenty-two inmates have been executed since Scott took office, the most executions under any Florida governor since 1976.

Florida’s bishops also announced multiple Catholic and interfaith prayer vigils against the death penalty in the week ahead of the scheduled execution.

They said Catholics and others will pray for both the victims and the aggressor, as well as for their families. They will pray “for our society, which continues to impose violence in return for violence, and for an end to the use of the death penalty.”