Next month, Rick Scott will win the distinction of "Florida's Most Deadly Governor" when he surpasses Jeb Bush in the number of executions under his watch since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976.
Since taking office in 2011, Scott has signed 21 death warrants -- the same number Bush did in two full terms as Florida's governor. But on February 26, Jerry Correll is scheduled to die for his 1986 conviction of stabbing to death five people, including his own daughter, his ex-wife, and her mother, sister, and niece. Unless Correll's execution is stayed, Scott's death penalty tally will go up to 22.
Needless to say, anti-death penalty activists aren't happy with this trend.
"Gov. Scott has led Florida on a killing spree of blood vengeance that is ill-advised, unnecessary, and, given Florida's national record for wrongfully convicted people released from death row, could put the blood of innocents on all our hands," says Mark Elliot, executive director of Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty.
Elliot adds that many death row inmates have been exonerated, making it plausible that innocent people have been wrongly executed.
"Since the 1970s, 25 people have been exonerated and released from Florida's death row. At the same time, 90 people have been executed," he says. "That's more than one exoneration for every four executions."
Scott already had the distinction of ordering more executions than any Florida governor during a first term since the death penalty was brought back in 1976, ending a ten-year moratorium as the constitutionality of capital punishment was being contested in federal courts.
Bush had the previous first-term record with 11, but Scott beat that less than three years into his term with the November 12, 2013, execution of Darius Kimbrough, who was sentenced to death for the 1991 rape and murder of 28-year-old Denise Collins.
Here's how Scott stacks up to other Florida governors since 1976:
With an entire second term to go, it's likely that Scott will increase his record tally even more. However, after Correll, there are no more executions scheduled just yet.
Although Scott has the highest kill total of any Florida governor since 1976, his rank has him tied with two other governors at fourth place for all time. Back in the first half of the 20th Century, executions in the U.S. hit an all-time high, with the majority being black men -- especially in Florida -- and sometimes even children. Between 1924 and 1964, Florida executed 196 people, with 132 of those black males, according to the Florida Department of Corrections. The youngest was Fortune Ferguson, who was only 13 when he was convicted of rape in 1924 and then executed three years later. John W. Martin was the governor at that time.
But it's Spessard Holland, who governed Florida for one term between 1941 and 1945, who is the all-time execution leader in Florida, with a kill tally of 35 people -- 23 of them being black men.
Here are where Scott and Bush stand with Florida governors prior to 1966:
Scott might be near the top of the Florida governor kill tally, but he has nothing on Texas' last two governors. Combined, Texas Gov. Rick Perry (279) and ex-Gov. George W. Bush (152) have executed 431 people. That's much more than the total number of people executed in Florida since 1924, which is 285.
Follow Ray Downs on Twitter:
E-mail him at [email protected].