Friday, May 15, 2009

Florida Turnpike Killers Sentenced to Death

The Miami Herald carries the story of the sentencing of the two so-called Florida Turnpike Killers. We discussed this horrible crime before in which an entire family including two kids was wiped out.

The judge called them a group of people living a Scarface movie fantasy, seeing themselves as young drug lords ruling a world of escalating violence that led to the brutal murders of 3- and 4-year-old brothers and their parents.

Imposing a sentence recommended by a federal jury, U.S. Senior District Judge Daniel T.K. Hurley on Wednesday told Daniel Troya and Ricardo Sanchez Jr. their sentence for the boys' killings reflected the consequences of their involvement in the drug trade.

He sentenced both to die.

The sentences make Sanchez and Troya, 25 and 26, the first people to receive a federal death sentence in Florida since lawmakers reenacted the penalty in 1988.

One fascinating aspect of the case is that Troya and Sanchez had been willing before the trial to settle the cases in exchange for life sentences. The attorneys said prosecutors on the local level accepted the agreement, but the Attorney General's Office in Washington rejected it and asked for the death penalty.

So, in spite of the additional cost and all the other problems inherent in a capital punishment proceeding, the Attorney General's Office in Washington insists. Why do you think that is?

What's your opinion? Are Troya and Sanchez good candidates for the death penalty? Is their crime one that cries out for the ultimate punishment?

What about the family that was killed? Didn't they, or at least the parents, make the decision to work in the drug business? Didn't they choose to commit numerous crimes? Wouldn't that make them responsible for their own deaths just like the other criminals we've discussed who ended up dead because they were committing crimes? Or do you think there's a difference when the executioner is also a criminal?

There's entirely too much killing going on, can we all agree upon that? Do you think the availability of guns and the prevalence of violence in society, as glamorized in movies like Scarface, are two factors that feed on each other? I know it's not the guns, per se, but wouldn't it be wise if we found a way to keep the gun availability down as we sought to heal our society from violence through education and rehabilitation? What do you think about that?

Please feel free to leave a comment.


  1. There's entirely too much killing going on, can we all agree upon that? "

    No we can't. Too LITTLE killing, and the ones being killed are the wrong ones.

  2. I have never understood how it is more expensive to put someone to death. It makes more sense that if someone is left to rot in a cell for the natural lives to be more expensive to tax payers.

  3. Anon, every study that I am aware of has concluded that from death cases cost at least an average of $500,000 more than lwop cases. This is calculating from beginning of the case to end of the defendant's life, whether it be by execution or natural death in prison. This means that, yes, it really does cost more to execute someone than to house them in prison for the rest of their lives.

    This is so because of how much more litigation goes into a death case. Jury selection takes longer, up to 3 to 4 times longer. Obviously, that's an added cost. A death case involves an entire phase of trial that doesn't exist in a non-capital case. Those penalty phases are often a week. That's an extra week of court costs, jury fees, etc. Also, investigation must be done to prepare for that phase, both by the state and the defense. Often, expert witnesses must be hired by both sides. All of that expense does not occur in a non-capital case.

    On appeal, a death case requires two defense lawyers while a non-capital murder case typically gets one appointed lawyer. So that's extra money. There are more issues to litigate because there's that entire extra phase of trial. So that's more money. In most murder cases, the appellate attorney won't file a petition for cert to the US Supreme Court, but in every death case, you do. More money. There are also more appeals because there are stages to a death case after the direct appeal process is done, like when the death warrant is actually signed. There are issues to be litigated about those warrants that wouldn't occur in a non-death case.

    We don't just execute people without making sure we've crossed all the "t"s and dotted all the "i"s. Because a death case involves so many more "t"s and "i"s at all stages, the litigation costs do eventually exceed the cost of incarceration for life.

    I think Paul House is the most recent guy who is very grateful that we do check our cases so thoroughly before carrying out the ultimate punishment.

  4. Thanks S for the professional explanation. I guess some people would have us execute people quickly before it's even possible to cross the "t"s and dot the "i"s. Oddly, these are often the same people who are tireless supporters of their "rights."