Death Penalty Attitudes Changing Around the Country: Will Florida Be Next?

When Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda’s bill to abolish the Death Penalty in Florida was filed we heard snickers from a number of political insiders including many Democrats. When the bill was killed in committee earlier this month it seemed like a mere formality.  Florida after all is a state where the Death Penalty generally has had strong bi-partisan support.

As a death penalty opponent (I support Capital Punishment only in cases of treason against the United States but in no other cases) , I have often been accused of trying to bring “European values” into the American justice system. But recently other states have seen shifts in attitudes on this important issue.

Last month, Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe said he would sign a bill repealing the Death Penalty if one came to his desk. Beebe is unlike one of his predecessors, Bill Clinton who flew home during the 1992 Presidential Campaign to execute a mentally retarded man. Beebe is a Conservative Democrat but since his term is almost over he can safely advocate reform.

Martin O’Malley who is one of the leading contenders for President in 2016 is a long term opponent of the Death Penalty. The Maryland Governir is pushing hard for a repeal this legislative session. The bill he advocates is making its way through the process, clearing a key Senate committee last week and very well could pass the overwhelmingly Democratic legislature.

John Kitzhaber a former Death Penalty supporter in his previous stint as Oregon Governor has now reversed himself and has halted executions in the state. Maggie Hassan, the Governor of New Hampshire is strongly advocating repeal and may get a bill to sign this year.

Even Conservative Republicans Governors like John Kasich (Ohio) and Sam Brownback (Kansas) are having doubts about executions. In fact, Brownback’s new position is similar to mine. I oppose Capital Punishment except in cases of high treason against the United States of America which conforms with Brownback’s new position.

Rising Democratic superstar John Hickenlooper has openly discussed his changing attitudes on the subject. A longtime Death Penalty supporter, Hickenlooper now says he is reconsidering based on the mounting evidence about jury bias and costs.

While momentum is being developed for a reversal of Capital Punishment in other states, Florida which has long been among the leaders in executions nationally continues to avoid the debate. Rep. Rehwinkel Vasilinda has fought a lonely fight to this point but given what has happened in other parts of the country, maybe time is on her side.


  1. Really you’ve outdone yourself this time. You’ve gone overboard with this bleeding heart liberal crap. Florida is a state which will NEVER repeal the Death Penalty.

    We have a crime problem here in Florida and many liberal dens agree that the death penalty is the single biggest deterrent to more crime.


    1. Plenty of conservatives are against the death penalty as well. Beebe and Brownback are mentioned above in the article. Yes, I am a liberal and don’t hide from the label. Attitudes are shifting on this issue rapidly particularly among elected officials.


  2. […] Krishnaiyer looks at how Rep. Michelle Rewinkel Vasalinda is ahead of a national curve among Democratic elected officials who are turning against the Death Penalty. Check out the Florida […]


  3. I’m generally opposed to the death penalty, for many reasons – some financial, some logistical, and some ethical/moral. However, I find the conservative position to be curious in that it seems to contradict itself. The same people who are ‘pro life’ seem to quickly reverse position when it comes to people convicted of crimes. Just like Tony – he criticizes Kartik for being a ‘bleeding heart’ when it comes to felons, but probably wouldn’t mind being called a ‘bleeding heart’ for the unborn. I suggest that people look at actual research on the death penalty – the answer is not clear that the DP is a deterrent. It’s societally-approved revenge, really.


  4. Blue Dog Dem · ·

    You’ve gone totally nuts buddy. This will NEVER happen in Florida. NEVER! Not should it.


  5. Honorable David B. Maynard · ·

    Ain’t it funny how the murder rates are higher in states with the death penalty? And what about all the folks found innocent and pardoned post mortem? What about the innocent death penalty victims loved ones? And the death penalty is not a deterrent any more than a “living wage” minimum wage is a job “killer”.


  6. excellent piece. Florida may eventually reach the 21st century. Maybe.


  7. I used to think the death penalty made sense. I mean, what else can you do to punish someone who has killed? Now that I am older, I believe that life in prison is probably worse than death.

    Beyond those superficial passes at morality, we may as well examine the studies and govern according to proven concepts. It is highly debatable whether the death penalty acts as even a mild deterrent to murder, and there are serious issues with due process that can’t seem to be worked out. It also costs more public money to try and re-try a defendant until they have reached the end of their appeals. What else do we need to take an admittedly unpopular stance and advocate the end of the death penalty in most cases?


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