Faith Leaders Call On Gov. Scott To Stop Execution Of Man Soon Slated To Die

Feb 21, 2013

A man convicted of causing the death of a state trooper is expected to die next week. But, a group of faith leaders are now calling on the Governor to block the death row inmate’s execution, since he may not be able to get a federal review of his case.  

About 20 years ago, authorities say 47-year-old Paul Howell, a drug trafficker, tried to kill two Marianna women with a pipe bomb because they knew too much about a South Florida drug ring. But, Florida Highway Patrol Trooper Paul Fulford intercepted the delivery and opened the package, which ended up killing him.

And, now that Howell is slated for execution, the group, Tallahassee Citizens Against the Death Penalty, says the Governor and the courts should stay his execution. The group’s Chair Juvais Harrington says killing Howell, or any death row inmates, does not do anyone any good, including the victim’s family.

“It doesn’t give them any restorative value. It doesn’t give them anything because at the end of the day, you can’t replace those loved ones,” said Harrington, who's also an Assistant Pastor of Mount Zion Primitive Baptist Church in Tallahassee.

One person who can attest to that is Agnes Furey. The 76-year-old is a Florida resident who knows what it feels like to lose a loved one to a homicide. In her case, she lost her daughter and grandson in 1998.

“The man who murdered them is serving time in prison and he would have been subject to the death penalty. And, I’m real grateful that that did not happen,” said Furey.

“Because I don’t think killing him would have done my daughter or my grandson any honor. And, it certainly wouldn’t have made me feel any better. It wouldn’t have changed anything.”

Shelia Hopkins with the Florida Catholic Conference says what the state really needs to do is find another alternative to the death penalty.

“We recognize the state has the right to execute people. However, we also believe the modern penal-system contains aggressors and can protect society, we are more in tuned since 1994, you can provide the penalty of life in prison without possibility of parole. That is severe punishment. That is punishing the criminal for the crime, assuming that is the guilty party,” said Hopkins.

And, retired Reverend Emory Hingst agrees. He says Florida should follow the lead of several other states in the nation and abolish the death penalty entirely.

“In the U.S., just a few years ago, it was 12 states that did not sanction the death penalty. Today, over a little bit of a third of the states have abolished it, with other states considering it. I am confident it will happen in America at some point. I hope it will be sooner rather than later,” said Hingst.

Recently, a bill that would have ended the death penalty in Florida failed to pass out of its first committee stop in the Florida Legislature. It was a bill sponsored by Democratic Representative Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda.

Meanwhile, Howell, who’s scheduled to die by lethal injection Tuesday, is seeking a final federal review of his case by the Florida Supreme Court. The high court recently denied hearing his first appeal, which his lawyers say could make him the first Florida inmate in recent years executed without a final federal review of his case, after the death penalty was reinstated about 40 years ago.

But, according to the Attorney General’s Office, there have been several Capital cases that have not had a final federal review within the last decade.

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