Friday, October 13, 2006

Bishops ask Bush to halt 2 executions

Bishops ask Bush to halt 2 executions


TALLAHASSEE -- Florida's Catholic bishops have called on Gov. Jeb Bush to stop the scheduled executions of two prisoners in the next two weeks.

Ten bishops signed an open letter to the governor asking that he commute the death sentences of Arthur Rutherford and Danny Rolling.

On Thursday, the Florida Supreme Court rejected Rutherford's appeals for a new trial, clearing the way for his Oct. 18 execution. Rolling, scheduled to be executed by lethal injection on Oct. 25, still has appeals pending before the state's highest court.But the Catholic bishops asked Bush to stop the executions he has ordered.

"We implore the Governor to listen to the growing chorus of voices calling for a moratorium on executions in Florida and a careful examination of the State's death penalty system," the bishops wrote.

Some or all of the bishops have made similar calls in the past.

Bush, himself a Catholic, has said in the past that it is his duty as governor to carry out the sentences of the state's judicial system. He also has said he supports the death penalty as appropriate punishment for heinous crimes.

The bishops said they recognized the horror of the crimes, but still could not support executions."The brutal crimes for which these inmates are to be executed were horrifying and appalling," the bishops' letter said. "Our hearts ache for the victims and their families, and we have enormous sympathy for them. These were unjustifiable attacks on human life, and we unequivocally condemn and renounce these crimes in the strongest terms possible."

Rutherford is the convicted killer of 63-yar-old Stella Salamon, a Milton woman who was murdered in her home in 1985.

Rolling is sentenced to death for the murders of five University of Florida students in 1990.

The letter was signed by Archbishop John Favalora; Bishops John Nevins, John Ricard, Robert Lynch, Victor Galeone, Gerald Barbarito and Thomas Wenski; Coadjutor Bishop Frank Dewane, Auxiliary Bishop Felipe Estevez and Auxiliary Bishop John G. Noonan.

Rutherford and Rolling would be the 62nd and 63rd inmates executed in Florida since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976. Clarence Hill was executed last month.

Paul Flemming is a reporter for Gannett News Service in Tallahassee.

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