Florida plans to kill Bobby Joe Long tomorrow for the murder of Michelle Sims in 1984, although he pleaded guilty to killing eight women and sexually assaulting dozens of others during eight months of that year.
But Long had an abusive childhood and a traumatic brain injury and, as the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops said in a letter to Gov. Ron DeSantis:
“Since his sentencing , modern medicine has learned a great deal about the effects of brain trauma. His attorneys have filed briefs that call attention to the multiple traumas he experienced throughout his life, including the motorcycle accident he suffered in 1974. That incident profoundly affected him and his behaviors. It contributed to his receiving a disability rating from the military, from which he was honorably discharged.”
And, the bishops state, even if there weren’t strong mitigating evidence, they would still ask the governor to grant clemency, and sentence him to life in prison:
“Although he caused much harm, society has been safe from his aggressive acts in the decades of his incarceration. Without taking his life, society can be protected while he endures the alternative sentence of life without the possibility of parole.”
The bishops’ letter is important not just because of their reference to his trauma and mental health issues, but because they reiterate Pope Francis’ statement that the death penalty is inadmissible, even when the crimes the prisoner is accused of committing are “heinous.”
“Please promote a consistent pro-life ethic in our state. The cycle of violence – to which Mr. Long’s acts have contributed – must end. His execution would only perpetuate it,” they write.
You can read the letter in full here.