Florida death row inmate calls out DeSantis in last words

This image provided by the Florida Department of Corrections shows inmate Donald Dillbeck, who was convicted of fatally stabbing a woman near Florida’s Capitol 32 years ago. Dillbeck was executed by lethal injection on Thursday, Feb. 23, 2023. (Florida Department of Corrections via AP)

(NewsNation) — Florida executed its first death row inmate since 2019 on Thursday, as convicted murderer Donald Dillbeck, 59, was put to death by lethal injection.

In the minutes before the lethal injection procedure was initiated, Dillbeck used his final words to admit hurting people and to criticize Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, according to multiple reports.

“I know I hurt people when I was young. I really messed up.” Dillbeck said, according to the Tallahassee Democrat. “But I know Ron DeSantis has done a lot worse. He’s taken a lot from a lot of people. I speak for all men, women and children. He’s put his foot on our necks.”

After the comment, corrections officials administered the drugs that ultimately stopped Dillbeck’s heart and he was pronounced dead at 6:13 p.m. at Florida State Prison, the governor’s office said.

Dillbeck was 11 years into a life sentence for fatally shooting a 31-year-old Florida deputy in a scuffle during a robbery investigation when he walked away from a work release assignment catering a meal for a seniors event, according to court records.

In his attempt to flee, Dillbeck fatally stabbed Faye Vann, 44, more than 20 times and slit her throat in an attempted carjacking in a shopping mall parking lot in Tallahassee, court records show.

He crashed the car a short time later and was captured after running from the scene.

The Supreme Court rejected a last-minute appeal by Dillbeck’s attorneys, who argued he suffered from fetal alcohol syndrome, the Tallahassee Democrat reported.

The execution was Florida’s first in nearly four years and the third under DeSantis. 

Vann’s children released a statement after the execution thanking DeSantis for carrying out the execution, saying it “has given us some closure.”

DeSantis, who was reelected last November and who is considered a potential 2024 presidential candidate, was quiet on the death penalty during his first term.

But the governor has since said he wants to change a 2017 state law that requires a unanimous jury recommendation to impose the death penalty so that one or two jurors can’t affect the sentence.

Since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976, Florida has been one of the most active states in carrying out executions.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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