Florida: Duane Owen executed – after nearly four decades on death row

On Thursday night, 62-year-old Duane Owen was executed by lethal injection in the U.S. state of Florida after nearly 40 years on death row. He had raped and killed both a 14-year-old babysitter and a 38-year-old single mother of two in the spring of 1984.

Owen’s attorneys had unsuccessfully tried to stop the execution, arguing that their client was unfit to be executed due to mental and psychological problems.

Petitions opposing Duane Owen’s execution pointed out that he was born to alcoholic parents, his mother died of cancer, and shortly thereafter his father committed suicide when he was nine years old. He had been sexually and physically abused at the orphanage, including being forced to have sex with a 35-year-old educator. Two of the jurors had voted against a death sentence and for life imprisonment because of these backgrounds.

Some of the victims’ relatives were present at the execution. But not all family members favored the death of the perpetrator. For example, a cousin of the 14-year-old girl commented several times in an online Facebook vigil chat that Duane Owen’s death did not give her peace and that she was praying not only for the victims but also for the perpetrator:

“Karen Slattery was my cousin. But I do not see how the death penalty serves anyone. I pray for Karen, Georgiana and Duane. I can tell you that despite my beautiful cousin Karen having lost her life so young, Duane’s death is equally horrible. My heart is hurting for all. I am praying that Duane finally feels the love and peace he never felt as a little boy.”

It was the fourth execution of a death sentence in Florida this year, after three and a half years without executions and only an average of two executions each year from 2015 to 2019. Experts suspect political backgrounds, as Republican Governor Ron DeSantis is seeking a run for U.S. president.