In the fifth Florida execution this year, death row inmate James Barnes, who confessed to killing his estranged wife, was executed Thursday for the brutal murder of another woman, USA Today reports. He was sentenced to death after he admitted his role in the murder and rape of a nurse in 1988. In 2006, Barnes pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and was sentenced to death. He was also convicted of two counts of sexual battery, armed burglary, and arson. According to Barnes' sentencing order, he entered Patricia "Patsy" Miller's condo through a bedroom window and repeatedly raped her, strangled her with her bathrobe belt, killed her by striking her head with a hammer, and set her bed on fire with her body on it to eliminate evidence. Barnes did not request a last meal, have any visitors, or meet with spiritual advisors before he was put to death.
No executions had occurred in the state since August 2019, before the pace increased this year under Gov. Ron DeSantis, who signed Barnes' death warrant on June 22. Barnes was the 104th person executed in Florida since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976. In recent months, DeSantis signed two pieces of legislation related to capital punishment. One allowed for the death penalty without a unanimous jury decision, and the other allowed the state to seek capital punishment for non-murder cases of sexual battery involving children under 12, which will go into effect Oct. 1. Nationally, 54 executions are scheduled for 2023, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. Some states had suspended executions after a series of botched lethal injections, the most widely used death penalty method. “For the eighth consecutive year, fewer than 30 people were executed and fewer than 50 people were sentenced to death,” the Death Penalty Information Center said in its 2022 report. “… The five-year average of executions, 18.6 per year, is the lowest in more than 30 years, a 74% decline over the course of one decade.”