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Jacksonville Faith Leaders Protest ‘Overzealous’ Use Of Death Penalty

Andre Roman
Pastor R.L. Gundy leads a press conference against the death penalty outside the Duval County Courthouse Wednesday.

More than 50 Jacksonville faith leaders are calling for an end to the death penalty.

The plea is partly a response to this week’sHarvard University study labeling Duval County among a handful of counties nationwide that sentence the majority of criminals to die.

“So, let us lift up our voices and in the name of justice, demand the death penalty be put to death,” Unitarian Universalist Church Pastor Phillip Baber said Wednesday on the steps of the Duval County Courthouse.

Baber and dozens of other religious leaders signed a letter to State Attorney Angela Corey’s office, calling for the abolition of the death penalty a day after a Harvard University report criticized Corey as “overzealous.”

Corey defended her use of the death penalty in awritten statement Tuesday, saying she’d never apologize for standing up for victims and their families.

But Darlene Farah, the mother of murdered Shelby Farah, said that’s only true if you agree with her.

“I’m fighting for what I feel is right, and as far as these political comments that she’s making? Angela Corey made it political when she refused to take his offer,” she said.

Farah said she wanted to avoid years of appeals by supporting an attempted plea deal by her daughter’s killer, James Rhodes, which would have given him two consecutive life sentences plus 20 years, but Corey sought the death penalty instead.

State Attorney Angela Corey and Pastor R.L. Gundy will discuss Fair Punishment Project's death penalty study on “First Coast Connect” Thursday morning.

Listen to this story on Redux:

Reporter Ryan Benk can be reached at, 904-358-6319 or on Twitter@RyanMichaelBenk

Ryan Benk is a former WJCT News reporter who joined the station in 2015 after working as a news researcher and reporter for NPR affiliate WFSU in Tallahassee.