Capital Punishment In Florida: Kormondy Executed
UPDATED 1/16/14: Johnny Shane Kormondy was put to death by lethal injection and declared dead at 8:16 p.m. on 1/15/16.
Johnny Shane Kormondy was executed Thursday night at Florida State Prison in Starke for the 1993 murder of Pensacola banker Gary McAdams and the rape of his wife. Cecilia McAdams survived the attack and was on hand to witness the execution.
The execution had been scheduled for 6 p.m. Eastern, but was delayed for two hours by an eleventh hour appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. After the appeal was rejected, Kormondy was put to death by lethal injection.
Cecilia McAdams spoke and said, “My family and I have waited 21 long years for this day to happen.”
She also said she was a little concerned about how she would feel when this day arrived, "Because it’s been a bit of a roller coaster since we found out that the governor signed the death warrant. But, I have peace. I feel peace. Justice has been served. It’s not going bring back what we’ve lost. His life can’t replace what we’ve lost, but it’s the right thing.”
It was in July of 1993 that Kormondy, then in his early 20s, and two associates forced their way into the McAdams home, after the couple returned from a class reunion. Cecilia was raped repeatedly and her husband Gary was fatally shot.
Two of his siblings joined Cecilia to witness the execution, including his brother Tom and his sister Terry McAdams, who said she was overwhelmed by the occasion.
"And, I am so glad that this journey has come to an end with this monster. And, I won’t have to be tormented by his face in the newspaper anymore, on TV anymore, and I can truly say that I am glad this is done and over.”
The two accomplices in the rape and murder, Curtis Buffkin and James Hazen, are serving life sentences.
Kormondy is the 21st inmate executed under Governor Rick Scott. The same number of prisoners was put to death under former Governor Jeb Bush.
There have now been 90 executions in Florida since the death penalty was reinstated in the state in 1979.
Previous to Kormondy’s execution, the last local capital punishment cases to be carried out were in 2006. After spending 23 years on death row, Clarence Hill was executed for the 1982 shooting death of a Pensacola Police Officer Steve Taylor during a downtown bank robbery. Also, Arthur Rutherford was put to death that same year for the 1985 murder of Stella Salamon at her home in Santa Rosa County.
Convicted killer Johnny Shane Kormondy is scheduled to be put to death by lethal injection on Thursday, Jan. 15 for the murder of a Pensacola man more than 20 years ago. That’s pending eleventh hour vigils and calls for a last minute stay.
Kormondy is being executed for his role in the shooting death of Pensacola banker Gary McAdams and the rape of McAdam’s wife Cecilia during a home-invasion/robbery in July 1993. Kormondy was the alleged mastermind. Two accomplices Curtis Buffkin and James Hazen were sentenced to life in prison.
After numerous appeals, Governor Rick Scott signed a death warrant in November 2014. The death warrant is the 21st since he took office in 2011. This week, the governor was asked his thoughts on tying a record for executions.
“You know, capital punishment is a solemn duty of the governor. I review all their cases. They’ve gone through all their appeals and the clemency process, but you know I review all their cases and it’s a solemn duty,” said Scott.
Across the state, there have been several prayer services in relation to the planned execution.
“Floridians will be gathered around the state to pray in vigils for peace and healing for the McAdams family as well as for peace and forgiveness and God’s mercy for Mr. Kormondy,” said Michael Sheedy.
Sheedy is executive director of the Florida Catholic Conference, one of the anti-death penalty groups urging Gov. Scott to halt the execution, which has been set for Thursday, 6 p.m. Eastern.
“Our consistent teachings that every human life is sacred from conception to natural death, regardless of guilt or innocence because all human life comes from God, and accordingly we have appealed to the governor for a stay of execution for Mr. Kormondy and commutation of his sentence to life in prison without the possibility of parole, which is a severe and just punishment,” Sheedy said.
And, while the Catholic Church believes that people who’ve committed heinous crimes should be held accountable, it draws the line. Deacon Ray Aguado is coordinator of Advocacy and Justice for the Pensacola-Tallahassee Diocese.
“The church believes that imposing a sentence of death as a result of someone taking another person’s life only perpetuates the cycle of violence and doesn’t recognize the dignity of life for all persons,” Aguado said.
Locally, Aguado has coordinated a number of prayer vigils, including one that was held Friday at the Basilica of St. Michael’s the Archangel in Pensacola. Also, a prayer service was planned for this Wednesday night at 6:00 at St. Mary Catholic Church in Fort Walton Beach.
At the other end of the diocese, the group Tallahassee Citizens Against the Death Penalty will sponsor an interfaith prayer vigil on Thursday night – at the same hour as the execution - in front of the Governor’s Mansion.
Meantime, other organizations are involved in the vigils and have been actively petitioning for a last minute stay of execution for Kormondy. That includes Amnesty International and Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty.
The group’s executive director Marc Elliott says right now, the only legal alternative in the state is a sentence of life without the possibility of parole.
“That accomplishes the same thing, but there’s no killing involved. We’ve had 25 people so far, who were wrongfully convicted who have been released from death row and that happened at the same time that 89 people were executed,” said Elliott.
According to Elliott, that equates to nearly ‘one exoneration for every 3 executions in the state.’
Specifically, there have been 89 executions in Florida since 1976, when the U.S. Supreme Court reaffirmed the death penalty, after finding it unconstitutional in 1972. Previously, there had been 314 executions in Florida.
Elliott says there are a number of reasons why he believes doing away with the death penalty would be a good thing.
“You know, a sentence of life without parole is carried out immediately and healing can begin a lot sooner. It costs a lot less and if a mistake is made, as we’ve made so many mistakes in Florida, more than any other state in the country.”.
According to Project Innocence, 25 people exonerated off Florida’s death row, followed by 20 death row exonerations in Illinois, and 12 in Texas.
Elliot says under a sentence of life without parole, a person could ultimately be freed if mistakes are made.
It is because capital punishment is final that the state doesn’t take such cases lightly. That’s according to Assistant State Attorney John Molchan, who notes that the final act in the Kormondy case has been decades in the making.
“These types of cases take a long time to finally reach the ultimate sentence and there’s good reason for that. They should be scrutinized very carefully from beginning to end, because in essence, the ultimate punishment is carried out,” said Molchan.
Molchan serves as felony supervisor and is in charge of special prosecutions for State Attorney Bill Eddins. In his career, Molchan has prosecuted 8 death penalty cases. He’s now part of a special panel in the first judicial circuit that reviews every first-degree murder case to determine whether capital punishment is appropriate.
One factor to be considered is if a homicide is committed during the commission of other felonies.
“In the Kormondy case, this murder occurred while in the course of committing a sexual battery as well as a burglary or robbery. There basically is an aspect of that that is very important. One of the things is cold, calculated and pre-meditated or heinous, atrocious and cruel,” Molchan said.
Now after more than 20 years, three trials and numerous appeals, the case has held up and is coming to a close. Pending a last minute reprieve the execution of Johnny Kormondy will take place Thursday night at Florida State Prison in Starke. Associated Press is reporting that Gary McAdam’s brother Tom McAdams is planning to be there as a witness.
The last person to be executed for a case stemming out of Escambia County was Clarence Hill, who shot and killed Pensacola police officer Stephen Taylor in 1982. Hill spent 23 years on death row before his execution in 2006.