The 17th Execution of 2023
James Phillip Barnes was executed on August 3, 2023 at 6:13
p.m. following a lethal injection at Florida State Prison in Starke, reported The Associated Press. Barnes was sentenced to death
Barnes is, what is known as, a volunteer. He recently dropped all legal appeals and wanted to be executed.
Lying on a gurney, Barnes appeared to already have his
eyes shut when the curtain was opened for witnesses. He didn’t respond when
prison officials asked if he had a final statement, and he remained motionless
except for breathing for about 10 minutes until that stopped. A doctor then
pronounced him dead.
The 61-year-old inmate was sentenced to death for the
murder of nurse Patricia “Patsy” Miller. It was the fifth execution in Florida
“I did not come
here to watch someone die. I came here to honor our sister, Patricia Miller,”
he told reporters afterward. “No one should live in fear within the safety of
their own home. No woman, no child, no animal should have that fear. We did.”
Barnes was serving a life sentence for the 1997
strangulation of his wife, 44-year-old Linda Barnes, when he wrote letters in
2005 to a state prosecutor claiming responsibility for killing Miller years
earlier at her condominium in Melbourne on Florida’s east coast.
Barnes represented himself in court hearings where he
offered no, pleaded guilty to killing Miller and did not attempt to seek a life
sentence rather than the death penalty.
Miller, who was 41 when Barnes killed her on April 20,
1988, had some previous unspecified negative interactions with him, according
to a jailhouse
interview he gave German film director Werner Herzog.
“There were several events that happened (with
Miller). I felt terribly humiliated, that’s all I can say,” Barnes said in the
When he pleaded guilty, Barnes told the judge that
after breaking into Miller’s unit, “I raped her twice. I tried to strangle her
to death. I hit her head with a hammer and killed her and I set her bed on
fire,” according to court records.
There was also DNA evidence linking Barnes to Miller’s
killing. After pleading guilty, Barnes was sentenced to death on Dec. 13, 2007.
He also pleaded guilty to sexual battery, arson, and burglary with an assault
Barnes killed his wife in 1997 after she discovered
that he was dealing drugs. Her body was found stuffed in a closet after she was
strangled, court records show. Barnes has claimed to have killed at least two
other people but has never been charged in those cases.
Barnes had been in and out of prison since his teenage
years, including time served for convictions for grand theft, forgery, burglary and
trafficking in stolen property.
In the Miller case, state lawyers appointed to
represent Barnes filed initial appeals, including one that led to mental
competency evaluations. Two doctors found that Barnes had symptoms of
personality disorder with “borderline antisocial and sociopathic features.”
However, they pronounced him competent to understand his legal situation and
plead guilty, and his convictions and death sentence were upheld.
After DeSantis signed the inmate’s death warrant in June, a Brevard County judge granted
Barnes’ motion to drop all appeals involving mitigating evidence such as his
mental condition and said “that he wanted to accept responsibility for his
actions and to proceed to execution (his death) without any delay,” court
Though unusual, condemned inmates sometimes don’t
pursue every legal avenue to avoid execution. The Death Penalty
Information Center reports that about 150 such inmates have been put
to death since the U.S. Supreme Court reaffirmed the death penalty as
constitutional in 1976.
The Florida Supreme Court accepted the Brevard County
ruling, noting that no other motion seeking a stay of execution for Barnes had
been filed in state or federal court.
In the Herzog interview, Barnes said he had converted
to Islam in prison and wanted to clear his conscience about the Miller case
during the holy month of Ramadan.
“They say I’m remorseless. I’m not. There are no more
questions on this case. And I’m going to be executed,” Barnes said.
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