Fla. House panel votes to keep death penalty

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Florida lawmakers are rejecting calls to scrap the death penalty in the state.

A Florida House panel on Thursday voted 9-4 to turn down a bill that called for the end of capital punishment.

Florida currently has more than 400 inmates on death row -- the second-highest total in the nation.

Religious leaders, human rights advocates and Democrats took turns railing against the death penalty on Thursday.

Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda, D-Tallahassee, sponsor of the bill (HB 4005), said the death penalty is too costly and is wrong for moral and ethical reasons. She also questioned whether it is a crime deterrent.

"There is no proof that the death penalty deters crime," Vasilinda said.

"(The) death penalty is a barbaric act, and we need to abolish it," said Juvais Harrington of the NAACP.

But other legislators defended the use of capital punishment.

Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, called the death penalty essential to public safety and justice in the state.

There have been several efforts to get the death penalty repealed since it was reinstated in 1972.

Florida executes two inmates a year.