ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Florida is getting ready to carry out the execution of a man who was convicted of strangling his wife and brutally murdering another woman years earlier.
This lethal injection is expected to proceed as planned, as the man, James Phillip Barnes, has dropped all legal appeals and expressed his desire to accept his punishment.
Scheduled to take place at 6 p.m. on Thursday at Florida State Prison in Starke, this execution will be the fifth one in the state this year.
Barnes was serving a life sentence for the 1997 strangulation of his wife, Linda Barnes, when he admitted in letters to a state prosecutor in 2005 that he was also responsible for the killing of Patricia “Patsy” Miller, a nurse who lived in a condominium in Melbourne, along Florida’s east coast.
Barnes represented himself during court hearings, providing no defense, and pleaded guilty to killing Miller. He did not attempt to avoid the death penalty, even though he had the option of seeking a life sentence instead. According to Barnes, he killed Miller because of certain negative interactions they had, which left him feeling humiliated.
The brutal murder of Miller took place on April 20, 1988, at her home. Barnes confessed in court that he raped her twice, attempted to strangle her, hit her head with a hammer, and set her bed on fire.
DNA evidence also linked him to the crime. He was sentenced to death on December 13, 2007, and also pleaded guilty to sexual battery, arson, burglary with an assault, and battery.
Barnes had a history of criminal behavior dating back to his teenage years, with convictions for grand theft, forgery, burglary, and trafficking in stolen property.
Despite being diagnosed with a personality disorder with “borderline antisocial and sociopathic features,” Barnes was deemed mentally competent to understand his legal situation and plead guilty.
His appeals involving mitigating evidence, such as his mental condition, were dropped, and he expressed a desire to accept responsibility for his actions and proceed with his execution.
Although it’s uncommon for condemned inmates to forgo legal avenues to avoid execution, it has happened in about 150 cases since the U.S. Supreme Court reaffirmed the constitutionality of the death penalty in 1976.
The Florida Supreme Court accepted the decision to proceed with the execution, and no other motions seeking a stay were filed in state or federal court.
In an interview with filmmaker Werner Herzog, Barnes claimed to have converted to Islam in prison and wanted to clear his conscience about the Miller case during the holy month of Ramadan.
Despite Barnes’ willingness to accept death as punishment, the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops sent a letter to Governor Ron DeSantis, urging him to grant a stay of execution and commute Barnes’ sentence to life in prison, in line with the Catholic church’s opposition to the death penalty. However, Barnes himself is not seeking such relief.