1. Opinion

Death sentences require unanimity because death is different

Here’s what readers are saying in Thursday’s letters to the editor.
An unidentified "death row" inmate in "Q" wing of Florida State Prison, at Starke.
An unidentified "death row" inmate in "Q" wing of Florida State Prison, at Starke.
Published Jan. 29
Updated Jan. 29

Death sentences require unanimity

On death penalty, an outlier again | Editorial, Jan. 29

The new Florida Supreme Court ruling eliminating the unanimous jury requirement increases the chances of executing innocent people. I have been a trial lawyer for 38 years and I believe our legal system is the best in the world, but it is far from perfect. Twenty-nine wrongfully convicted death row prisoners have been exonerated in Florida in recent years based upon DNA evidence. Across the United States 165 death row inmates have been exonerated since 1973. DNA evidence has found most of these wrongfully convicted inmates innocent. I believe that in the vast majority of these wrongful convictions well-meaning jurors, trial judges and appellate judges did their best to implement the law but made good faith mistakes in the death penalty convictions.

With this number of exonerations, since our legal system is not perfect, it is clear that we have executed some innocent people. As long as we have the death penalty and an imperfect legal system we will execute some innocent people. Justice Jorge Labarga dissented from the ruling, arguing that there is “every reason to maintain reasonable safeguards for insuring that the death penalty is fairly administered.”

I personally do not believe in the death penalty. I do not believe we as citizens can ever accept a system that will certainly execute innocent people from time to time because of our inherent human potential for error that is an unavoidable part of our legal system. But for my fellow citizens who do believe in the death penalty I would urge them to consider Justice Labarga’s impassioned objection to making it easier to kill people in the name of the people of the state of Florida. I would also urge our legislators not to pass legislation to implement this opinion.

Joseph Saunders, St. Petersburg

Close off Gasparilla to cars

Pirates are poor judges of sobriety | Jan. 29

A 24-year-old Tampa resident blows a .10 while taking a (Tampa Bay Times administered) breathalyzer test while attending the 103nd Gasparilla Invasion and Parade of the Pirates presented by Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla in Tampa. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | TImes]

The article about Times’ reporters offering free blood alcohol tests at Gasparilla and the mention of the wrong-way driver prompted me to question, why don’t we encourage people to leave their cars at home on Gasparilla? Why doesn’t Tampa designate certain roads for bikes and let bike valet companies operate near the parade route? A drunk bicyclist is far less dangerous than an impaired driver. Plus, that would take a lot of cars off the roads and lessen congestion.

Elizabeth Corwin, Tampa

Drunk faster than expected

Pirates are poor judges of sobriety | Jan. 29

While this article was quite informative, a short message could also have been useful. The fact is, for a large section of the population, if they drink two beers in under an hour, chances are good that their blood-alcohol content will be over the legal limit, and most people will feel just fine. It pays to know that.

Leo Ouellette, New Port Richey

Pay for what we spend

Our children will pay the bill | Letter, Jan. 27

Then-House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions, R-Texas, examines a printout of the $1.1 trillion spending bill to fund the government for the 2016 budget year.

A recent letter pointed to the $1 trillion budget deficit. Blame is placed at the feet of President Donald Trump, as it should be. However, these large deficits are not new. They are a 21st century experience during good economies and bad. President George W. Bush’s unfunded war increased the national debt to about $10 trillion. By the time President Barack Obama left office, it was close to $20 trillion. The current national debt is about $23 trillion. We have been ballooning it for a long time. Before we look at ways to pay for new things like student debt relief, Medicare for all, climate change initiatives, etc., we need to find a way to pay for what we have now.

David Hagan, Tampa


  1. Florida has some of the highest auto insurance rates in the country. [Courtesy of Clearwater Police]
  2. Our democracy is under unprecedented attack from overseas, but the federal government has been unable or unwilling to protect our campaign-finance system.
  3. Cars sit locked in evening rush hour traffic on Dale Mabry near Raymond James Stadium in Tampa. The Hillsborough County Commission will discuss Wednesday whether to prepare a transportation tax for the November ballot now that the fate of the current tax rests with the Florida Supreme Court. [ZACK WITTMAN  |  Times] 
  4. In this Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2004, file photo, Tiffany Carr, executive director of Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence, left, speaks at a news conference held by Gov. Jeb Bush, background right, to announce a public awareness campaign designed to prevent disaster-related domestic violence, in Tallahassee, Fla. On Thursday, Feb. 13, 2020, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis ordered an investigation into a nonprofit domestic abuse agency whose CEO, Carr, had received $7.5 million in compensation over a three-year span. (AP Photo/Phil Coale, File)
  5. Paula Dockery of Lakeland served in the Florida Legislature for 16 years.
  6. The United States' life expectancy has gone down four out of the last five years largely because of deaths in the 25-64 age range.
  7. Michael Bloomberg, Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump
  8. In this image from video, the vote total, 53-47 for not guilty, on the second article of impeachment, obstruction of congress, is displayed on screen during the impeachment trial against President Donald Trump in the Senate.
  9. Nurse manager Amy Hunt holds the special stethoscope that allows nurses at Tampa General Hospital to record a heartbeat while they listen to it during a routine exam.
  10. Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections worker Andrea West adds mail ballots to an inserter at the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections Service Center in Largo. Workers are preparing to mail 260,000 vote by mail kits for the November General Election.