Death penalty protestors gather outside Orange County Courthouse ahead of man’s execution

Donald Dillbeck to be put to death Thursday; 1st execution in Florida since 2019

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Activists pushing to change Florida’s death penalty law gathered in front of the Orange County Courthouse Wednesday ahead of the first execution in the state since 2019.

The demonstration was one of several across the state in an effort to stop upcoming executions.

“I’m speaking to Floridians. We need to abolish the death penalty,” activist SueZan Bosler said.

The gathering came as convicted murderer Donald Dillbeck is scheduled to be put to death on Thursday.

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Dillbeck’s attorneys have called for a stay of execution because of a neurological condition related to being exposed to alcohol before birth. He is set to be executed for a 1990 murder and carjacking in Tallahassee.

Donald Dillbeck (Florida Department of Corrections)

“Now we have a situation where a man with a diagnosis that didn’t exist when he was sentenced to death is now scheduled to be executed,” activist Abraham Bonowitz said.

If Dillbeck’s execution is carried out, it would be the first in Florida since August 2019.

Meanwhile, Gov. Ron DeSantis, who signed Dillbeck’s death warrant, has pushed for an easier path to impose the death penalty by moving away from the unanimous jury requirement.  Lawmakers are expected to address the issue during this year’s legislative session.

“One can get on and maybe scuttle it, but if you need three or four to scuttle, it makes it much more difficult,” DeSantis said last month. “So, we’re going to be working with them to make sure that we get that reform in place.”

The group behind Wednesday’s demonstration said several other events are scheduled across the state leading up to a vigil outside the Florida State Prison.

Dillbeck’s execution is scheduled for Thursday at 6 p.m.

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About the Author:

Mark Lehman became a News 6 reporter in July 2014, but he's been a Central Florida journalist and part of the News 6 team for much longer. While most people are fast asleep in their bed, Mark starts his day overnight by searching for news on the streets of Central Florida.