Senate OKs bill broadening death penalty record exemptions

death penalty family
Critics warned the bill would thrust the process 'into the shadows.'

The Senate OK’d a bill Monday that would withhold the information of nearly all parties involved in Florida’s execution process from public record.

The bill (HB 873) seeks to broaden the state’s longstanding public record exemption by shielding “any person or entity” involved in the state’s execution process.

Shalimar Republican Rep. Patt Maney is the bill sponsor. The Senate passed the proposal along a 28-10 vote. The House approved the bill 84-32 on Wednesday. The bill, which required a two-thirds majority, now awaits Gov. Ron DeSantis’ consideration.

If signed into law, the bill will mark a significant expansion of the longstanding exemption. State law currently shields an array of details, including the executioner’s name — a private citizen paid $150 per execution — and the state’s lethal injection drug prescribers.

The bill, though, would shield any person or party involved in “administrating, compounding, dispensing, distributing, maintaining, manufacturing, ordering, preparing, prescribing, providing, purchasing, or supplying drugs, chemicals, supplies, or equipment necessary to conduct an execution.”

Proponents of the bill, including the Department of Corrections (DOC), assert the exemption is needed to carry out executions and satisfy drug companies, some of whom oppose the death penalty.

“The bill ensures DOC will be able to obtain the drugs necessary to carry out executions in the future,” said Gulf Breeze Republican Sen. Doug Broxson, the companion bill sponsor.

Florida affords death row inmates two options: lethal injection or the electric chair. According to DOC, 317 inmates are on death row, three of whom are females. The average age of someone at the time of execution in Florida is 45 years old.

While Democratic lawmakers mostly opposed the bill, St. Petersburg Republican Rep. Jeff Brandes emerged as one of its most outspoken critics. He urged colleagues to vote against the bill, saying the exemption would bury the process “in the shadows.”

“We should absolutely have the most transparent process in the country,” Brandes said. “If we have a difficult time finding the drugs, that’s just part of the process. Florida should be doing everything it can to be aboveboard.”

Alternatively, Orlando Democratic Sen. Linda Stewart said she voted in favor of the bill to prevent use of the electric chair. If Florida is unable to acquire the cocktail needed for lethal injection, she fears the state would rely solely on the electric chair.

“I cannot make a choice to use the electric chair when I’m opposed to the death penalty to begin with,” Stewart said.

Miami Democratic Sen. Jason Pizzo echoed the sentiment, warning a lack of drugs would force more than 300 death row inmates into “limbo.” It is unclear what would happen if Florida ran out of lethal injection drugs.

Frank Johnson was the first inmate executed in Florida’s electric chair in 1924, according to DOC.

Jason Delgado

Jason Delgado covers news out of the Florida State Capitol. After a go with the U.S. Army, the Orlando-native attended the University of Central Florida and earned a degree in American Policy and National Security. His past bylines include WMFE-NPR and POLITICO Florida. He'd love to hear from you. You can reach Jason by email ([email protected]) or on Twitter at @byJasonDelgado.


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