The Catholic bishops of Florida have asked for continued prayers for an end to the death penalty following the stay of an inmate’s execution. They had previously asked Gov. Rick Scott to commute the inmate’s death sentence and cited Pope Francis’ new catechism revisions on the death penalty.
“Please continue to pray for victims of crime, those on death row, and for an end to the use of the death penalty,” the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops said Friday afternoon.
Jose Antonio Jimenez, now 54 years old, was convicted of the 1992 murder of Phyllis Minas, a 63-year-old woman. He had been scheduled to be executed at 6 p.m. Aug. 14.
On Aug. 10 the Florida Supreme Court unanimously granted a request to grant the stay, without stating a reason, the Florida News Service reports.
Jimenez’s lawyer Marty McClain had requested the stay, citing several issues. These included a pending Supreme Court decision that could affect Florida’s lethal injection protocol.
McClain also said he had discovered that the North Miami Police Department had not previously provided to Jimenez’s lawyers the 80 pages of records related to the investigation of the murder.
McClain told the Florida News Service that the records include handwritten notes by investigators who interviewed Jimenez after his arrest that contradict their testimony. He contended that they show the investigators were willing to give “false and/or misleading deposition testimony” in order to facilitate Jimenez’s conviction.
Catholic prayer vigils had been scheduled across the state to pray for the victim, the aggressor, their families and society, as well as to pray for the end of the death penalty.
After the stay was announced, many of these vigils were set to continue in the dioceses of St. Petersburg, Orlando, Pensacola-Tallahassee and Venice.
However, organizers canceled some Catholic prayer vigils that had been scheduled in the Archdiocese of Miami and the dioceses of St. Augustine, Pensacola-Tallahassee, and Palm Beach.
“We pray for Ms. Minas and for consolation for her loved ones. All of us are called to stand with victims in their hurt as they seek healing and justice,” Michael Sheedy, executive director of the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops, said in an Aug. 9 letter. “We invite people across Florida to join in this prayer. Both victims of crime and offenders are children of God and members of the same human family.”
Sheedy, speaking on behalf of the state’s Catholic bishops, said Gov. Scott has a “difficult task as governor” but still asked him to commute Jimenez’s death sentence and all death sentences to life without possibility of parole.
The letter to the governor cited Pope Francis’ revision of the Catechism of the Catholic Church on the death penalty.
The Florida bishops’ conference further commented in an Aug. 10 statement.
“Given the development of doctrine involving the death penalty, the Catechism of the Catholic Church’s treatment of the topic was revised earlier this month,” the bishops’ conference said.
The relevant section of the Catechism now reads “the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person.” It calls for the Church “to work with determination for its abolition worldwide,” the bishops’ conference said.
Drawing from the Catechism, Sheedy told the governor that the change “reflects the growing awareness that the dignity of the person is not lost even after the commission of great crimes and that more effective forms of detention have been developed to ensure the due protection of citizens without definitively depriving the guilty of the possibility of redemption.”
In addition to prayers for Minas, her family and her friends, Sheedy voiced prayers for Jimenez and “all those facing execution.”