Gov. Scott signs record 14th Florida killer death warrant

mcaputo@MiamiHerald.comFebruary 13, 2014 

Robert Lavern Henry

A day after the 13th convicted killer was executed on his watch, Gov. Rick Scott signed another death warrant Thursday, this time for a killer who bludgeoned and burned two Deerfield Beach co-workers in 1987.

If executed, Robert Lavern Henry will be the 84th person executed in Florida since the state reinstituted the death penalty in 1976. Henry’s execution is scheduled for 6 p.m. March 20.

Scott announced Henry’s death warrant less than 24 hours after the execution of Juan Carlos Chavez for the 1995 murder, rape and dismemberment of 9-year-old Jimmy Ryce in Redland.

Henry’s killing of Janet Cox Thermidor and Phyllis Harris received far fewer headlines years later, but bore its own gruesome hallmarks.

A jury convicted him of killing two Cloth World co-workers in a staged robbery. Henry tied up and beat Harris on the head with a hammer, and then battered Thermidor. He doused both with a flammable liquid, torched them and fled.

Thermidor, however, did not die instantly. She survived just long enough to identify Henry as the killer in a taped statement to police. Henry confessed. He later recanted on the witness stand, and said the store was robbed by others.

During the trial, Broward State Attorney Michael Satz called the defense “absolutely preposterous.”

“He wanted the money,” Satz said at the time. “For $1,269.26, Janet Thermidor and Phyllis Harris were brutally murdered.”

If executed, Henry will be the 14th Death Row inmate killed by lethal injection on Gov. Scott’s watch. No other governor since the death penalty was reinstated has presided over so many executions in his first term as governor.

As with other governors in most other cases, Scott is signing death warrants for killers who have been on Death Row the longest and have exhausted all clemency efforts and appeals.

“It’s the governor’s solemn duty to uphold the law,” said Scott spokeswoman, Jackie Schutz.

Execution records of previous governors:

• Charlie Crist (2007-11) oversaw the fewest executions, five, during his single term. Crist, now a Democrat, is running against Scott in November’s election.

• Jeb Bush (1999-2007) was the prior first-term record holder in modern times, with 11 executions. He still holds the all-time modern-day execution record over two terms: 21.

• Lawton Chiles (1991-98) executed eight people during his first term and 10 more in his second.

• Bob Martinez (1987-91) executed nine convicts.

• Bob Graham (1979-87) executed two during his first term and 14 in his second.

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