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Florida bishops call on DeSantis to halt Death Row execution

Lethal injection next to crucifix

AVN Photo Lab | Shutterstock

J-P Mauro - published on 06/06/23

The Catholic Church condemns the use of the death penalty as an “attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person."

The Catholic bishops of Florida are appealing to Governor Ron DeSantis to halt the June 15 execution of Duane Owen, a prisoner who has been on Death Row since 1985 for the murders of two women. DeSantis, an emerging Republican candidate for the 2024 US presidential election, recently expanded the death penalty to be in play for cases of rape of a minor. 

Crux reported that the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops (FCCB) penned a letter to Gov. DeSantis on May 31. In it, they recognized the “irreversible harm” caused by Owen’s crimes, as well as the “immense suffering of the victims’ families,” they argued: 

“However, taking Mr. Owen’s life will not restore the lives of the victims. Intentionally ending his life will do nothing but perpetuate violence in a society steeped in it,” wrote Michael Sheedy, FCCB representative to the Florida government. “Justice does not demand state-sanctioned killing that disrespects the dignity and sacredness of human life.

“Rather, justice is best served by the alternative punishment of lifelong incarceration. Society must be kept safe from Mr. Owen and those like him, but that can be done effectively without resorting to more violence.”

Owen is on Death Row for two brutal murders: The first in 1985 for stabbing and killing a 14-year-old babysitter, and the second was handed down a year later after he was tried for beating a woman to death with a hammer in her Boca Raton home.

The FCCB noted that Owens was raised in an orphanage, where he suffered physical and sexual abuse that led to “organic brain damage.”

The Catholic Church condemns the use of capital punishment as a pro-life stance, and an “attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person,” one that prevents the full course of atonement and reconciliation. 

Crux notes that the governor has already postponed the execution of Owens for the purpose of testing his mental faculties, but the clock has since been resumed after he was found to be mentally fit for execution.

Stats from the Death Penalty Information Center have shown that Florida has executed 102 people since 1976, with three sentences having been carried out in 2023. Florida has the second most populated Death Row in the nation, with 318. 

The FCCB is organizing a gathering of Floridians to pray for Owen’s victims, their families, for all those affected by violent crime, to end the death penalty, and for the soul of Owen himself: 

“We also pray for you as you consider this request,” Sheedy wrote to DeSantis.

CatholicDeath PenaltyUnited States
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