The 7th Execution of 2023
Florida executed Donald Dillbeck on February 23, 2023 for murdering a woman in 1990 after he escaped from prison, stabbing her to death in a shopping mall parking lot in an attempted carjacking, reported The Associated Press.
Dillbeck, 59, was pronounced dead at 6:13
p.m. after receiving a lethal injection at Florida State Prison, the governor’s
office said. He had been convicted in the murder of Faye Vann, 44, in
Tallahassee near the state Capitol.
The execution was Florida’s first in nearly four
years and the third under Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis. By comparison, his
immediate predecessor, current U.S. Republican Sen. Rick Scott, oversaw 28
Vann’s children, Tony and Laura, released a
statement after the execution: “11,932 days ago, Donald Dillbeck brutally
killed our Mother. We were robbed of years of memories with her, and it has
been very painful ever since.”
They thanked DeSantis for carrying out the
execution, saying it “has given us some closure.”
The curtain between the death chamber and the
viewing room opened at 6 p.m. Thursday. When asked if he had any last words,
Dillbeck said: “I know I hurt people when I was young. I really messed up.” He
also criticized DeSantis.
The execution began at 6:02 p.m., and Dillbeck
closed his eyes shortly thereafter. He breathed deeply for a few minutes while
his body shook. By 6:07 p.m., his mouth hung open, and he appeared to stop
Dillbeck was 15 when he stabbed a man in Indiana
while trying to steal a CB radio, court records show. He fled to Florida, where
Lee County Deputy Dwight Lynn Hall found him in a Fort Myers Beach parking lot.
While Hall was searching him, Dillbeck hit the deputy in the groin and ran.
Hall tackled him and, as the two wrestled, Dillbeck took Hall’s gun and shot
Dillbeck was 11 years into a life sentence for
killing the deputy when he walked away from a work release assignment catering
a meal for a seniors event, according to court records. He then bought a paring
knife and walked to Tallahassee.
Vann was waiting for her family when Dillbeck
approached her car with the knife and demanded a ride, saying he’d forgotten
how to drive, court records show.
Vann honked the horn, tried to drive off and fought
back that Sunday afternoon, but Dillbeck stabbed her more than 20 times and
slit her throat, court records show. He crashed the car a short time later and
was captured after running from the scene.
Despite a prior escape attempt and an assault on
another prisoner, Dillbeck had been placed in a minimum security facility. A
furious Republican Gov. Bob Martinez fired three corrections officials and
sought to implement rules to ensure prisoners with life sentences would be held
in more secure settings.
Florida’s Supreme Court earlier this month denied
appeals claiming he shouldn’t be put to death because he suffers from fetal
alcohol syndrome and it was cruel and unusual to keep him on death row for more
than 30 years before his death warrant was signed. The U.S. Supreme Court
denied his appeals Wednesday.
DeSantis, who was reelected last November and who is
considered a potential 2024 presidential candidate, was quiet on the death penalty
during his first term. His office refused to answer repeated phone calls and
emails about the lack of warrants signed since 2019. DeSantis also cut off an
Associated Press reporter who asked about the long pause in executions and
didn’t answer the question.
But DeSantis criticized a Broward County jury’s
failure to sentence Nikolas Cruz to death for fatally shooting 17 students and
faculty at a Parkland high school, and has since said he wants to change a 2017
state law that requires a unanimous jury recommendation to impose the death
penalty so that one or two jurors can’t affect the sentence.
Since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death
penalty in 1976, Florida has been one of the most active states in carrying out
Democratic Gov. Bob Graham oversaw 16 executions
between 1979 and 1987. Martinez oversaw nine in his one term in office,
Democratic Gov. Lawton Chiles oversaw 18, and 21 prisoners were executed under
Republican Gov. Jeb Bush. Gov. Charlie Crist oversaw five executions in his
single term in office.
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