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How rare is the death penalty in Southwest Florida?

Posted: 7:12 AM, Oct 08, 2019
Updated: 2019-10-08 07:12:45-04

LEE COUNTY, Fla. -- Part of the reason jury selection is taking so long in the Teresa Sievers murder case is because it is a death penalty case.

The prosecution and defense are asking a lot of very thorough questions about this.

So we dug a little deeper into how rare the death penalty is within our state.

Taking a look back on records, it turns out getting sentenced to death is quite rare in Southwest Florida.

The last person to be sentenced to death in Southwest Florida was Mesac Damas in Collier County in October of 2017. He actually got six death penalty sentences for murdering his wife and five children.

He is one of three people sentenced to death in Collier County in recent years. That includes Brandy Jennings (1996), and Thomas Gudinas (1995).

But before Damas, the last person to be sentenced to death in the area was James Robertson in December of 2012 in Charlotte County. While in prison serving a life sentenced, he strangled his cell mate to death with a pair of socks, saying he did it because he wanted to be on death row an die.

Including Robertson, six inmates have been sentenced to death in Charlotte County in recent years.

-James Robertson (2012)
-Dwight Eaglin (2006)
-Stephen Smith (2006)
-Daniel Conahan (1999)
-James Ford (1999)
-Jack Sliney (1994)

And in Lee County, four inmates have gotten the death penalty.

-Kevin Foster (1998)
-Harold Lucas (1997)
-Joshua Nelson (1996)
-Anton Krawczuk (1992)

Getting the death penalty will be even more rare in the future, now that the law says the jury has to unanimously vote to give the death penalty. The state's legislature passed a statute making this a requirement in March of 2017.

The rule also says if there's a hung jury, there would be no retrial. Instead, there would be a life sentence for defendant.