State Prepares for High-Profile Execution

Preparations are underway for what will be one of the state’s highest-profile executions in years.

Serial killer Danny Rolling is scheduled to be executed on October 25 for the murders of five college students in Gainesville in 1990. Officials are already juggling media requests and plans for additional security at Florida State Prison.

The scheduling of Danny Rolling’s execution has also stirred up some political controversy. Democratic candidate for Attorney General Skip Campbell questioned whether the execution had been scheduled less than two weeks from the election to make Republicans look tough on crime.

But Jeb Bush responded that since both Democratic and Republican candidates for governor support the death penalty, he didn’t see how a particular candidate would benefit from it.

The grisly slashing deaths of five students near the University of Florida campus gripped the state and the nation in 1990 as police searched for the killer. Danny Rolling eventually pleaded guilty to the murders. With Rolling’s execution finally scheduled for October 25, the case is back in the media spotlight.

Pat Roberts heads up the Florida Broadcasters Association, which is responsible for choosing five TV and radio journalists to witness the execution. The requests are pouring in.

“This one has gotten interest from all over the state as well as networks outside the state because, I think, of how horrendous the crimes were, and it affected the whole state.”

Five newspaper reporters and two wire service reporters will also serve as media witnesses. The prison warden will select an additional 12 witnesses, who typically are victims’ family members and/or law enforcement involved in the case.

The Department of Corrections is making plans to handle large crowds around Florida State Prison, where the execution will take place. The prison is only about 40 minutes from the University of Florida campus.

Prison officials refused our requests to talk about those plans, but the Florida Highway Patrol does beef up manpower around the facility during executions, and Rolling will be no exception.

Danny Rolling himself is also refusing requests to talk. He has declined the interview with reporters traditionally offered death row inmates the day before execution.