The execution of Willie Jasper Darden has focused attention on the nation's largest death row, where some well-known killers, including serial killers Theodore Bundy and Gerald Stano, await their fate.
Darden's execution left 287 convicted murderers in the death row wings of the Florida State Prison near Starke.Darden avoided execution for 14 1/2 years after being placed on death row in January 1974, earlier than any of the surviving inmates except one. While pursuing his appeals, he survived an unprecedented six death warrants, until his appeals ran out on No. 7 last Tuesday.
Bundy, linked to more than 20 sex slayings in Washington, Utah, Colorado and Florida, is under separate death sentences for the 1978 bludgeoning murders of Florida State University sorority sisters Lisa Levy and Margaret Bowman and for the murder of 12-year-old Kimberly Leach in Lake City.
Bundy, subject of at least four books and a television miniseries, has been on death row since August 1979 and has survived three death warrants.
Stano, a former short-order cook from Daytona Beach, has confessed to dozens of killings and is under three death sentences for the murders of Susan Bickrest and Cathy Muldoon in Volusia County and Cathy Lee Scharf.
He also has been sentenced six times to life in prison for other Florida killings. He has been on death row since January 1984 and has survived three warrants.
Capital punishment supporters urge the state to press Bundy's, Stano's and other cases.
But while their appeals may seem to linger, some 50 death row cases are older than Bundy's and some 140 are older than Stano's, according to Department of Corrections records.
The governor's office can push the cases forward only as quickly as legal roadblocks to execution fall. That's up to the courts.
"It's counter-productive to sign a warrant if they're not at an appropriate stage to sign one when you know they have an automatic appeal," said Andrea Hillyer, an attorney for Gov. Bob Martinez who handles death cases.
"You just have to wait until courts are through with different stages," she said. "It's hard to predict, we just monitor their cases."
On April 7, mass murderer Robert Dale Henderson is scheduled to to be executed for three of 12 slayings he is believed responsible for during a spree that started in Ohio and continued through South Carolina, Mississippi, Louisiana and Florida.
However, Henderson's case dates back only six years, and it's generally expected that his attorneys still have plenty of room for appeals that would gain a stay of execution.