Florida bishops urge governor to halt upcoming execution

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Florida's Catholic bishops have called on Gov. Charlie Crist to halt the Sept. 23 execution of Richard Henyard by lethal injection and "put an end to the use of the death penalty in our state."

Henyard, 34, is on death row for the Jan. 30, 1993, murders of 7- and 3-year-old sisters and the rape and attempted murder of their mother.

In a letter to Crist dated Sept. 17, the bishops said that although the "untimely deaths of the two young victims and serious injury to their mother cry out for justice, we are reminded that executions diminish us as a civil society and perpetuate a culture of death."

They added that Henyard's execution would be "another example of our failure to recognize the inherent dignity of every human being, even those guilty of horrible crimes."

The bishop's statement was in a press release issued by the Florida Catholic Conference in Tallahassee, the public policy arm of the state's bishops.

Henyard was sentenced to death in 1994 for the murders of 7-year-old Jamilya Lewis and 3-year-old Jasmine Lewis and the rape and attempted murder of their mother, Dorothy Lewis.

Florida bishops want end to death penalty

ORLANDO, Fla. (CNS) -- Florida's Catholic bishops have called on Gov. Charlie Crist to "set a new standard of respect for life" in the state by ending the use of the death penalty, beginning by halting the July 1 scheduled execution of Mark Dean Schwab.

Schwab, 39, is on death row for the April 18, 1991, rape and murder of 11-year-old Junny Rios-Martinez of Cocoa.

In a letter to Crist dated June 25, the bishops said they are praying for the victim and know they are unable to fully grasp the pain experienced by his family. They lamented, though, that taking the life of another who has killed perpetuates violence as a solution.

"The Lord commands us to forgive, just as our heavenly Father has forgiven us. It is only through the process of forgiveness that we are healed and our suffering can be alleviated," said Bishop Victor B. Galeone of St. Augustine.

The bishop's statement was in a press release issued by the Florida Catholic Conference in Tallahassee. He is the episcopal moderator for the State Pro-Life Coordinating Committee of the conference, the public policy arm of the state's bishops.