August 25, 2016
was released this week by Harvard Law School's Fair Punishment Project, reporting that less than one percent of all U.S. counties handed down five or more death sentences between 2010-2015. While the U.S. is generally moving away from its use of the death penalty, four of the sixteen national outlier counties are in the state of Florida (Duval, Hillsborough, Miami-Dade, and Pinellas). The report emphasized the disproportionate impact of the death penalty on African-Americans, the mentally ill, and defendants under the age of 21.
In response, Bishop Felipe Estévez of the Diocese of St. Augustine, with clergy of various faiths, held a press conference facilitated by Equal Justice USA in front of the Duval County Courthouse. Participating clergy urged local prosecutors to stop seeking death sentences. In the words of Bishop Estévez, "Whenever we can choose life over death, we are called to do so. Duval County's high use of the death penalty raises grave concerns and goes completely against promoting a culture of life, since means other than execution are available to keep society secure."
Photo credit: Brandon Duncan/St. Augustine Catholic