Joe Henderson: Impending execution raises old questions on death penalty – Florida Politics (blog)
If Mark James Asay is executed tonight, that will be the first time the state of Florida has used capital punishment on a white man for killing a black person.
It’s a grim reality that’s worth noting, and I would respectfully disagree with Mark Elliott, executive director of Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty. Elliott told the Tampa Bay Times, “This does nothing to change the 170-year long history of Florida not executing whites for killing blacks.”
Well, yeah it does — although no one is saying it balances the scales. If we’re going to have the death penalty in Florida, then Asay’s forced departure from the realm of the living is justice — delayed, for sure, but justice.
He was convicted of premeditated murder for killing two men in Jacksonville in 1987. One of them, Robert Lee Booker, was black. Prosecutors said Asay made racist comments during all this. This is not a man who will generate, or deserve, much sympathy. But his execution, the 93rd since Florida resumed the death penalty in 1976, does come at a time when capital punishment is under siege in this state.
A survey from Public Policy Polling found 62 percent of Floridians prefer a life sentence to execution. The state also was forced to change the law to require unanimous jury consent before the ultimate punishment can be imposed.
That’s a little late for Asay, whose death sentence came after a 9-3 jury verdict in favor. The state Supreme Court ruled that the law isn’t retroactive for other cases on death row.
Florida also changed the drugs it uses in executions, replacing the sedative midazolam — which is getting harder to acquire because drug companies don’t want to be complicit in executions — with etomidate. It’s the first time that