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Florida Catholic Bishops to Rick Scott: End Death Penalty

July 8, 2013 - 6:00pm

Florida's Catholic bishops have repeated their decades-long call for Florida to abolish the death penalty, as the state prepares to execute a former escort service owner convicted of raping and murdering two women, and attempting to murder a third, all in the 1980s.

We urge Governor [Rick] Scott to commute the death sentence of Marshall Gore to life in prison without possibility of parole, the seven spiritual leaders of Florida's 2.3 million Catholics pleaded in a joint statement Tuesday. In making this plea, we are saddened and troubled by the brutal murders of his victims, Susan Roark and Robyn Novick, and we express our sincere sympathy to their families. However, neither retribution nor deterrence can justify the use of the death penalty.

Gore's execution, scheduled to be carried out Wednesday at 6 p.m., concludes a 25-year judicial process that only just ended. After a series of trials, appeals, and retrials, a federal appeals court on June 27 denied claims by Gore's lawyers that their client was mentally insane.

The U.S. Supreme Court has previously held that capital punishment of the insane is a violation of the Eighth Amendment's constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

We renew our appeal to the governor and all policymakers that when society can otherwise be kept safe, there is no justifiable reason to use the death penalty, the bishops continue. Across the world, most other countries have abandoned the death penalty, in practice or in principle. In our country, the past six years have seen six states repeal their death penalty laws. Given our dubious record of wrongful convictions with 24 exonerations, Florida should join these enlightened states.

Though the legalization or abolition of the death penalty rests with the Florida Legislature, the decision whether to carry out any particular execution rests with the governor. If Scott does not commute Gore's death sentence before 6 p.m. Wednesday, Gore will die by lethal injection.

Reach Eric Giunta at or at 954-235-9116.

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