Protesters celebrate stay of Gore's execution
Published: Monday, June 24, 2013 at 10:09 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, June 24, 2013 at 10:09 p.m.
STARKE — For Mark Elliott, of the Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, “it was a good news day.” That's what he told the crowd of about 50 anti-death penalty protesters gathered outside the grounds of the Florida State Prison early Monday evening.
The protesters had just heard that the execution of Marshall Lee Gore had been temporarily stayed, or canceled, after the federal 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta approved a motion by Gore's attorney based on a claim that Gore is insane and therefore ineligible for execution. A hearing on the case will be held on Thursday.
The protesters stood in a circle and said a prayer, and then sang “Amazing Grace” — which they also do in the event of an execution.
“If there was ever a thing not to take place, this is it,” Elliott told the protesters — many of whom were from Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church in Daytona Beach, a group that regularly sits in vigil outside the prison during the executions.
They are led by the Rev. Phil Egitto, who has been bringing protesters for the past decade. Egitto's stance on the death penalty is the same regardless of the crimes of those convicted.
In Gore's case, Egitto believes an alternative to the death penalty would be “life without parole, which protects society and is much more humane for someone who is most likely mentally ill,” Egitto said.
“When we understand mental illness better, we will not kill people. Execute justice, not people.”
Gore, 49, was convicted of strangling and killing Robyn Novick, of Lauderhill, in 1988. He was also convicted of killing Susan Roark a few months later in Columbia County; and he was charged with attempted murder of another woman, Tina Coralis, along with the kidnapping of her 2-year-old son.
A few days after his arrest, when shown pictures of Novick's body, a teary-eyed Gore told police, “If I did that, I deserve the death penalty.” However, in court he denied knowing her and claimed Coralis' injuries resulted from her jumping out of a moving car.
Gore's attorneys claimed that Gore was insane and ineligible for execution, and Gov. Rick Scott had granted Gore a temporary stay of execution late last month. But a three-doctor commission overturned that opinion, finding Gore competent and eligible for execution.
Seth Penalver, a former inmate who was acquitted from first-degree murder charges and released from death row last December, was housed with Gore from 2000 until 2006. Penalver said that he believes Gore was definitively mentally ill.
In keeping with standard execution day practice, Gore was awakened at 6 a.m. on Monday and had his last meal at 10 a.m.: a rib-eye steak and a Coke. His only visitor was his spiritual advisor, Dale Recinella.
Gore's execution would have marked the third one in a month. On June 14, Scott signed the Timely Justice Act, which requires the governor to sign a death warrant within 30 days of review by the Florida Supreme Court; and it requires the state to execute the defendant within 180 days of the warrant.
Florida has 405 inmates on death row, more than any other state except California, which as of January 2013 had 727 according to the Death Penalty Information Center. In the U.S., as of January, 3,125 inmates are on death row.
For Paul Parker, a retired school administrator in Gainesville who attended Monday's protest, the death penalty has always been a troubling issue. Parker spent much of his professional life working in countries in Asia, Africa and Europe where the death penalty has long since been abolished.
“I've seen enough of the world and enough of life to feel concerned about issues like this,” Parker said, adding that the death penalty is “mixed up” with gun culture and lack of a nationalized health-care system.
“I was raised a Protestant, but the Pope's right on the death penalty,” Parker said, referring to the Catholic Church, which almost always opposes the death penalty.
For Elliott, religious views aside, there are other compelling reasons to protest the practice. When asked about Gore specifically, he said, “I don't know much about him. But he's a human being — and a prisoner locked up, so there's no reason to kill him.”
Elliott added that the money spent on execution could be re-routed to crime prevention efforts and victims' assistance programs.
Staff writer Maru I. Opabola contributed to this report. Contact Kristine Crane at 338-3119, or email@example.com.