In baseball, Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle went on a quest to break Babe Ruth’s single-season home run record of 60. Now, the difference is that Mantle finally did break the record, but instead of the same 154 game season that Ruth did it in, Mantle did it in the new 162 game season. So, an asterisks was added to Mantle’s record so the record books sometimes show 61* to annotate the increase in games per season; and to show he didn’t actually do it in 154 games.
The rules changed, and breaking the record wasn’t quite as impressive when you realize it took Maris longer than it took Ruth.
Between 1941 and 1945, Florida Governor Spessard Holland signed 35 execution orders – 23 of them were black men. As of now, he holds the record for being the all-time execution leader in Florida. Now, around 1966, the death penalty in Florida was abandoned until 1972. Since then, the two governors who share the record for most executions is Jeb Bush and Rick Scott. Bush should be of no surprise since he’s from Texas AND his brother, George W., as governor executed 152 people.
In February, Rick Scott is poised to take the lead in most executions since 1976. I led with the baseball story because in some cases the rule changes matter in making something not as big a deal as it once when the record was first broken. In this case, that after 6 years of no executions, the State of Florida decided executions are warranted and the death penalty was reinstated in the early 70s – well, this fact matters and goes towards greater significance. The reason the rule change makes this more significant is because our societal rules have changed.
There are 26 jurisdictions that have no executions within at least 10 years and if you look at only the last 5 years, you will see 34 jurisdictions with no executions, and 15 of those still have the death penalty. And that means, only 16 states in our United States still executes people.
Only 9 states had executions in 2013 and of those 9, Texas and Florida were the majority of executions. Society appears to be losing the stomach for execution as a punishment; and if you disagree with this, I encourage you to do a bit of research on the reaction from the botched Oklahoma execution last year.
This record Rick Scott is about to break in the State of Florida is sort of disgusting; admittedly, I am one of those in today’s society that is a bit more enlightened in thinking the death penalty isn’t the right answer. I wonder how a governor who signs death warrants sleeps at night. I wonder if he looks at the record of executions in Florida and says, well, I’m only #6 on the list of most executions or does he think about how much society has changed since 1945 and think maybe he should rethink his Christian priorities and contemplate what he will say to Saint Peter at those pearly gates. Or…does he think, “hell, I’ve got 3 more years to actually break this record and become the champ over Spessard Holland…I only need 14 more…its all or nothing”. Will the competition of breaking the all-time record be too much for Rick Scott to stop, or will he begin to think about his legacy and bring Florida to a new age of Enlightenment?
We’ll have to wait and see.