Provenzano, an unemployed electrician, walked into the Orange County
Courthouse on January 10, 1984 armed with a shotgun, an assault
rifle, a revolver and a knapsack carrying ammunition, all hidden
under a large Army-style jacket.
He was muttering threats against two police officers who had charged
him with disorderly conduct five months earlier, then began firing
when two bailiffs approached to search him.
Bailiff William Wilkerson was killed. Bailiff Henry Dalton suffered
brain damage, was partially paralyzed, and died seven years later.
Correctional Officer Mark Parker was paralyzed from the attack.
Provenzano was convicted of the shooting death of
bailiff William Wilkerson at the Orange County courthouse.
Provenzano was there for a hearing on a disorderly conduct charge
when he went on a rampage in 1984.
He shot Wilkerson, bailiff Harry
Dalton, and correctional officer Mark Parker. Wilkerson died; Dalton
suffered brain damage and was partly paralyzed and died in 1991.
Parker was paralyzed from the neck down.
The stay was lifted and the execution was
rescheduled for tonight. The execution was delayed again Wednesday
while the state Supreme Court reviewed a stay request received at 6
p.m. -- a half hour before Provenzano was scheduled to die.
Provenzano's lawyer said his client's mental condition had
deteriorated and asked for time to have him examined by
psychiatrists. The Supreme Court told Geovernor Bush at 6:44 p.m.
that it denied the request. The execution began eight minutes later.
Provenzano looked at his attorney, Michael Reiter, and said "Thanks
for everything, Mike."
Mark Parker, one of two other bailiffs wounded in
the shooting, watched from his wheelchair as Provenzano, 51, was
pronounced dead at 7 p.m.
Parker, 36, has been paralyzed from the
neck down since Provenzano shot him. "I was happy to get it over
with. He got off better than the other two victims did," Parker said.
"I'm still going to be paralyzed in the morning when I wake up."
Harry Dalton, 53, was left paralyzed by the shooting and died seven
Department of Corrections spokesman C.J. Drake
said the execution "went flawlessly." Provenzano, wearing a white T-shirt
and with a sheet pulled up to his armpits, moved his feet back and
forth a minute after the injection began and pursed his lips as if
blowing toward the ceiling. His face turned bright red. It later
became grayish-purple after his heart stopped. "I saw fear in his
eyes and that fear was because he was going to meet his maker," said
Lawson Lamar, who was the Orange County sheriff at the time of
courtroom shootings. "He put himself on that gurney."
Provenzano, an unemployed electrician, walked
into the Orange County Courthouse armed with a shotgun, an assault
rifle, a revolver and a knapsack carrying ammunition, all hidden
under a large Army-style jacket. He was muttering threats against
two police officers who had charged him with disorderly conduct five
months earlier, then began firing when two bailiffs approached to
"The game is over. There are no winners in this
game" said Dalton's son, Gary, who witnessed the execution. "It
hurts, it brings back everything that happened." Provenzano declined
to have dinner before the execution. The U.S. Supreme Court rejected
an appeal Tuesday concerning Provenzano's mental state.
A trial judge concluded last December that
Provenzano believes the reason he faces execution is because he is
Jesus Christ. The judge ruled that was not a strong enough reason
under Florida law to spare him because Provenzano also knows that he
Under state law, condemned killers can be
executed even if they are mentally ill unless they don't understand
they are about to be executed and why. The state Supreme Court
upheld the decision of the trial court last month, clearing the way
to schedule the execution. His lawyers asked the U.S. Supreme Court
to overturn the Florida high court ruling.
Provenzano's sister, Catherine Forbes of Orlando,
asked Bush in a hand-delivered letter Tuesday to spare her brother.
"As you know, Thomas is severely mentally ill," Forbes wrote. "He
believes he is Jesus Christ and that he is going to be executed
because people hate Jesus." In a response to Provenzano's lawyer,
the governor wrote he found no reason to alter the sentence.
Provenzano (6 June 1949 –
21 June 2000) was a convicted murderer executed by
means of lethal injection by the state of Florida.
Provenzano was sentenced to death
for a shooting at the Orange County Courthouse in
Orlando, Florida in 1984 that killed 60-year-old
bailiff William Arnie Wilkerson. Another bailiff,
53-year-old Harry Dalton, suffered brain damage and
was partially paralyzed, dying from his injuries 7
years later. Provenzano also shot correctional
officer Mark Parker, 19, who was hit in the spine
and ended up being paralyzed from the neck down.
In 1999, the state of Florida
heard a petition from Provenzano that argued that
the electric chair was a cruel and unusual
punishment. During the proceedings, Michael Minerva,
who had witnessed Jerry White's execution, said that
"White's body stiffened and was thrust upward and
backward to the back of the electric chair" after
the current had been switched on to the chair.
He also said that he heard air
moving through White's lips and throat, though he
could not tell whether the air was going in or out.
But even after the execution by electric chair of
Allen Lee Davis had caused many irregularities, the
constitutionality of the electric chair remained
However, by the time the inmate
following Davis was to be executed, Florida inmates
sentenced to death could choose between lethal
injection and the electric chair. Everyone executed
in Florida following Davis thus far (as of October
2007) has chosen lethal injection.
Ironically, the execution by
lethal injection of Bennie Eddie Demps – who was the
one executed immediately before Provenzano – caused
Provenzano had spent almost 16
years on Death Row before being executed at Florida
State Prison in Starke on 21 June 2000. He was the
48th murderer executed in Florida since that state's
reintroduction of the death penalty in 1976.
Killer Who Said He Was Jesus Is
Execution Goes Ahead Despite Plea On Basis Of
STARKE, Florida - June 21, 2000
A lethal injection has ended the life of Thomas
Provenzano, executed at the state prison in Starke a day after a
previous execution attempt ended at almost the last minute, due to a
stay by the U.S. Court of Appeals.
On Tuesday, the 51-year-old killer who said he
was Jesus Christ was hooked up to the lethal injection apparatus,
with needles in his arm, and was moments away from death when word
of the last minute court order came in.
But the three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of
Appeals lifted its stay of execution Wednesday morning, without
commenting on its reasons for either imposing or ending the stay.
The execution was delayed again Wednesday while
the state Supreme Court reviewed a stay request received at 6 p.m.,
a half hour before Provenzano was scheduled to die.
Provenzano's lawyer said his client's mental
condition had deteriorated and asked for time to have him examined
by psychiatrists. The Supreme Court told Bush at 6:44 p.m. that it
denied the request. The execution began eight minutes later.
The Court's ruling came despite the convicted
murderer having claimed to be Jesus Christ, and his sister's
desperate pleas to have his life spared on the grounds that he
suffers from delusions.
Provenzano's sister, Catherine Forbes, had asked
Florida Governor Jeb Bush in a letter Tuesday to spare her brother.
"As you know, Thomas is severely mentally ill,"
Forbes wrote. "He believes he is Jesus Christ and that he is
going to be executed because people hate Jesus."
Bush responded that he found no reason to alter
Provenzano was convicted of the murder of William
"Arnie" Wilkerson, one of three bailiffs shot when the unemployed
electrician opened fire.
One of the wounded bailiffs, Harry Dalton, was
paralyzed and has since died. The third bailiff, Mark Parker, was
also paralyzed and was in favor of the execution.
Provenzano had come to the courthouse muttering
threats against two police officers who had charged him with
disorderly conduct five months earlier. He opened fire on the court
officers when, alarmed by the threatening comments, they approached
and tried to search him.
A trial judge concluded in December that
Provenzano believed he face execution because he is Jesus. But the
judge ruled that was not a strong enough reason to spare him,
because Provenzano also knew he had killed Wilkerson.
Under Florida law, condemned killers can be
executed even if they are mentally ill unless they don't understand
they are about to be executed and why.
In addition, Provenzano's lawyers unsuccessfully
sought a delay pending an investigation into Florida's last
execution two weeks ago. Before he died, Bennie Demps claimed prison
staff took too long to prepare him for the lethal injection and "butchered"
him by cutting his groin and leg while looking for a vein to insert
an intravenous tube.
Florida has executed three other inmates this
year, all by injection. It switched to lethal injection in January
to stave off a U.S. Supreme Court review of whether the electric
chair was cruel and unusual punishment. In previous executions in
the electric chair, an inmate bled from the nose and another had
flames shoot from his mask.
Floridians for Alternatives to
the Death Penalty
"POPE APPEALS TO SAVE "JESUS CHRIST" - Anti-Death
Penalty Activists Speak Out.
In a move that has become a regular occurrence,
Pope John Paul II has called on Florida's Governor Jeb Bush, a
practicing Catholic, to grant clemency to Thomas Provenzano, who is
scheduled to be killed at 6pm, Tuesday, June 20, at Florida State
Prison at Starke.
Provenzano, who killed two men and paralyzed a
third in a shooting rampage at the Orange County Courthouse in 1984,
is mentally ill, and has believed he is Jesus Christ since the early
1970's. He believes he is being killed *because* he is Jesus Christ.
"We acknowledge the pain and suffering of
Provenzano's victims, and we join with the Pope and all people of
faith in asking Governor Bush to look into his own heart, and to
lead us with compassion and understanding," said Abe Bonowitz,
Director of Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (FADP),
an activist organization coordinating statewide public opposition to
executions. "The death penalty is not a solution. It's merely a band
aid on the symptoms of our violent society."
STATEMENT OF FLORIDIANS FOR ALTERNATIVES TO THE
DEATH PENALTY (FADP)
"We acknowledge the pain and suffering of Thomas
Provenzano's victims, William "Arnie" Wilkerson, who died, Harry
Dalton, who was paralyzed and died seven years after the shooting,
and Mark Parker, who remains paralyzed.
"We also acknowledge the pain and suffering of
the family of Thomas Provenzano, who are also victims of this
unfortunate tragedy. On Tuesday at 6pm, they too will become the
family of a loved one who has died unnaturally and unnecessarily as
a result of violence. Must the people of Florida be again made party
to the premeditated homicide of a defenseless human being? "By all
accounts, the evidence is clear that Thomas Provenzano is mentally
ill. Had treatment been available to him when he was diagnosed, and
when help was sought, he almost certainly would not have become
homicidal. Now the state seeks to treat him not on a hospital bed,
but on an execution gurney instead. This clearly demonstrates the
social, moral and fiscal failings of the bad public policy known as
the death penalty. We seek prevention and treatment, not revenge in
the form of extreme punishment.
"Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty
calls on Governor Jeb Bush to stop being a politician on this issue,
and instead to be a leader. We call on Governor Bush to grant
clemency to Thomas Provenzano. Furthermore, in light of renewed
evidence that the fairness and integrity of Florida's death penalty
process is seriously flawed, we call for a moratorium on executions
pending a full review of Florida's capital punishment process."
Death Penalty, Provenzano and Mental Illness
By Scott Talan - Capitol News Service
Thursday, June 22, 2000
It took 16 years to execute Thomas Provenzano.
But it took only minutes for him to kill two Orange County deputies
and wound a third. Death penalty opponents sing at a capitol vigil
Thursday. Remembering both the executed - and his victims.
Provenzano's attorney says he was mentally ill. "Mr.
Provenzano truly believed that he was Jesus Christ," said Provenzano
Attorney Mary Kane. That's why Provenzano believed he was being
executed say his defenders. "The world hates Jesus...he was Jesus...that's
why he was being executed," commented Walter Moore with the
Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.
Governor Bush declined to delay Provenzano's
sentence. Bush believed he was legally fit for execution. "All of
these courts in all these years of proceedings have determined that
Thomas Provenzano was competent to be executed," explained Governor
Bush's Press Secretary Elizabeth Hirst.
Psychiatrists say somebody
can be mentally ill and know the reality of the crime their
committing and know why they're being executed. Psychiatrist Dennis
Platt has examined death row prisoners. "They may think they are
being punished for any number of reasons none of which apply to the
case," said Platt.
But those same mentally ill people can also be in
touch with reality...even if they're delusional and think they're
somebody else. "Yet if they knew exactly what they were doing then I
think they are very responsible and should be held responsible,"
Provenzano has now been held accountable for his
actions....but the debate over whether he really knew why he was
being executed continues. Provenzano was the forty eighth person
executed since Florida restored the death penalty in 1976.
Condemned Killer Waits on Appeals
September 21, 1999
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - The state has made plans
to execute Thomas Provenzano four times this summer. Three times he
has won reprieves. The condemned killer is currently scheduled to go
to Florida's electric chair at 7:01 a.m.
Friday, 15 years after he
opened fire in an Orlando courthouse, fatally injuring two bailiffs
and leaving a third paralyzed for life. But Provenzano, 50, has two
appeals still pending and either could result in another stay of
execution this week.
The two issues that could save Provenzano are his
claim of insanity and the condition of the electric chair - neither
of which require any review of the crime that landed him on death
In January 1984, Provenzano was an unemployed electrician when
he walked into the Orange County Courthouse armed with a shotgun, an
assault rifle, a revolver and a knapsack carrying ammunition, all
hidden under a large Army-style jacket.
Provenzano was muttering threats against two
police officers who had charged him with disorderly conduct five
months earlier. He shot three bailiffs when one approached to search
him. His victims:
- William Wilkerson, a 60-year-old who had
retired from the Navy 14 years earlier as a lieutenant commander,
was immediately killed;
- Harry Dalton, a 53-year-old father of six, was
left paralyzed and died seven years later.
- Mark Parker, 19 at the time of the shooting,
survived but remains paralyzed from the shoulders down.
Gov. Jeb Bush signed Provenzano's death warrant
in June and his execution was set for July 7. Less than 12 hours
before his execution, Provenzano won a two-day delay because of his
claim of insanity: Under Florida law, a condemned killer cannot be
executed without understanding what is going to happen and why.
Provenzano was then scheduled for execution July 9.
But the bloody execution July 8 of Allen Lee "Tiny''
Davis for the 1982 murders of a pregnant Jacksonville woman and her
two young daughters resulted in a longer reprieve for Provenzano.
Florida's high court gave Provenzano a stay of execution until Sept.
14 and ordered trial judges in central Florida to hold hearings on
both the electric chair and Provenzano's competency to be executed.
In early August, a trial judge ruled the chair was constitutional;
that issue is still being reviewed by Florida's high court. Three
weeks ago, another judge ruled that Provenzano's actions might be
bizarre but that he was competent to be executed.
A week later, the
state Supreme Court gave Provenzano a 10-day extension to his stay
of execution from Sept. 14 to Sept. 24. Last week, the high court
heard oral arguments on the question of Provenzano's sanity, and
some of the justices expressed concern that the trial judge didn't
hear testimony from Provenzano's main witness.
FLORIDA DEBATES USE OF ELECTRIC CHAIR
The Florida Supreme Court this week held a
hearing on whether the electric chair is constitutional, after the
botched execution this July of a 400 pound prisoner named Allen Lee
Davis. Lawyers for Davis and for Thomas Provenzano, the next
prisoner scheduled for execution, held up color photographs of Davis
strapped to the chair minutes after he had been electrocuted. In one,
the upper half of Davis' face is purplish and his features are
A line of blood stretches down from beneath the
leather mask. Justice Harry Lee Anstead called the images of Davis "heinous,"
"horrible" and "right out of some horror movie." He challenged the
lawyer representing the state to defend them. After Davis' execution,
Florida's highest court halted all executions until September 14 -
including that of Provenzano, which had been scheduled for the next
The court ordered a judge in Orlando to hold a hearing on the
operation of the chair, and that judge ruled three weeks ago that
electrocution does not violate the constitutional ban on cruel or
unusual punishment. Provenzano's lawyers then appealed to the
highest court. Provenzano's attorneys say that he is a paranoid
schizophrenic, believes he is Jesus Christ and is thus incompetent
to be executed. He is scheduled to be electrocuted this coming
Provenzano: He Killed Two Bailiffs, Left Another
Palm Beach Post
Friday, August 27, 1999
TALLAHASSEE -- The
sanity of condemned killer Thomas Provenzano, who claimed to be
Jesus Christ since before he opened fire in an Orlando courtroom in
1984, must be evaluated in an evidentiary hearing, the Florida
Supreme Court ruled Thursday. Provenzano, who killed two bailiffs
and left a third paralyzed for life, is scheduled to be executed in
Florida's electric chair Sept. 14.
Florida's high court did not delay that date, but
a trial judge could do so if he needed more time to evaluate
Provenzano's competency, according to Michael Reiter, the Death Row
Thursday's 6-1 decision came just two days after
oral arguments on Provenzano's request for a competency hearing. The
court also heard arguments that the electric chair is cruel and
unusual punishment, but has not ruled on that issue. The court's
unsigned ruling was supported by Chief Justice Major Harding and
Justices Leander Shaw, Harry Lee Anstead, Barbara Pariente, R. Fred
Lewis and Peggy Ann Quince. Justice Charles Wells dissented.
In January 1984, Provenzano, an unemployed
electrician, walked into the Orange County Courthouse armed with a
shotgun, an assault rifle, a revolver and a knapsack of ammunition,
all hidden under a large Army-style jacket. Provenzano was muttering
threats against two police officers who had charged him with
disorderly conduct five months earlier.
He shot three bailiffs when
one approached to search him. William Wilkerson, who had retired
from the Navy 14 years earlier as a lieutenant commander, was
fatally shot. Harry Dalton, a father of six, was left paralyzed and
died seven years later. Mark Parker, who was 19, remains paralyzed
from the shoulders down.
Provenzano was originally scheduled for execution
July 7. But two days earlier his lawyers advised Gov. Jeb Bush that
they believed their client may be insane. That triggered a law that
requires Bush to appoint three psychiatrists to examine Provenzano.
They concluded that Provenzano "has the mental capacity to
understand the nature of the death penalty and the reasons why it
was imposed on him.''
But less than 12 hours before he was to be
executed, the state high court granted Provenzano a 48-hour stay,
ordering a circuit judge to review the insanity claim. Circuit Judge
Clarence Johnson rejected the claim -- but did not hold a hearing.
However, before Provenzano could be executed on July 9, Allen Lee "Tiny''
Davis went to the chair, as scheduled, on July 8. In the wake of his
bloody execution, the state's high court granted Provenzano a stay
until Sept. 14 for the electric chair challenge and the appeal of
his competency claim that was rejected by Johnson. Earlier this
month, Johnson ruled that death in the chair was not cruel or
unusual punishment. The Supreme Court is reviewing that decision.
Paralyzed Victim to View Execution
Christopher Goffard - St. Petersburg Times
June 20, 2000
Today, Mark Parker will ride flat on his back on
a three-hour van trip to Starke that he's been waiting to make for
16 years. He was a 19-year-old rookie corrections officer at the
Orange County Courthouse in Orlando when Thomas Provenzano, an angry
loner armed to the teeth, put a bullet in his spine and consigned
him to a life using a wheelchair.
Provenzano also shot two bailiffs
in that 1984 rampage, killing William Arnie Wilkerson on the spot
and crippling Harry Dalton, who died seven years later with brain
Today, the last surviving victim of the shootout
plans to sit in his wheelchair, watching through the glass, as the
Department of Corrections sends lethal chemicals into Provenzano's
heart. The former electrician is scheduled to die at 6 p.m. at
Florida State Prison for Wilkerson's murder, barring a stay of
Parker, who watched the courts delay Provenzano's
scheduled execution four times last year, calls it the "s-word." "I
don't say that word," Parker said Monday. "I don't let anyone say it
Parker, who is paralyzed from the neck down, has
undergone nine surgeries since the shooting. He has been waiting to
watch Provenzano, 51, die. "I'd have rather seen him in the electric
chair," Parker said. "He sentenced me to a life in an electric chair.
Fortunately, mine has wheels." To Parker, death by lethal injection
-- the execution method the state adopted when the constitutionality
of the electric chair came under attack -- seems too gentle a
passing. Like putting a pet to sleep, he said.
Parker was only four months into his job as a
corrections officer when Provenzano entered the Orange County
Courthouse, carrying a 12-gauge shotgun, .38-caliber revolver, an
assault rifle and ammunition concealed beneath a camouflage jacket.
Parker was unarmed. When Provenzano shot Dalton, who had tried to
search him, Parker ran for help and was caught in the crossfire
between Provenzano and Wilkerson. The bullet severed his spine.
Parker feels blessed to be alive -- he figures
the bullet should have killed him -- though he knows it's a very
different life than he thought he would lead. On the very day he was
shot, he had an appointment with an Army recruiter, and was
contemplating a career in uniform.
Instead, he now stays home
surfing the Internet and playing computer strategy games, most
recently one called "Jagged Alliance," in which he plays a mercenary
liberating a fictitious South American country. He operates his
computer with a stick that fits between his teeth. "I've gotten so
used to it after 16 years, I can play video games just as fast as
people who can use their hands," he said.
Parker doesn't expect to regain the use of his
limbs, but should God bless him with a miracle, he said, he wants to
know what shag carpet feels like under his toes, and what one of his
400 CDs feels like in his hand. "I will continue to live," he said.
"I won't live the way I expected to when I was 19, but I will go on."
For the trip to Starke from his home in Winter
Garden, where he requires 24-hour care, Parker will lie in the back
of his van in his wheelchair, which flattens down, and try to get
some sleep. He said he probably shouldn't be going, since he has a
wound from his last surgery that hasn't quite healed, and because he
gets pressure sores on his skin from sitting upright too long. But
he has waited 16 years for this day, he said, and he has plenty of
time to get better afterward.
If the execution proceeds as planned, Provenzano
will become the fourth Florida inmate to die by lethal injection.
His supporters claim he should be spared because he has the
delusional belief that he is Jesus Christ and doesn't understand
what is happening to him. The pope, too, has asked for mercy. Parker
is impatient with those arguments. "Tell me in the Bible where you
see Jesus walking around carrying three concealed weapons," he said.
Florida Catholic Conference
Tallahassee, FL (June 19, 2000) — The Bishops of
Florida appeal to Governor Bush for clemency and a stay of the death
sentence of Thomas H. Provenzano scheduled for execution at 6:00
p.m. on 20 June 2000. His crimes involved great evil and his victims
and their families have been terribly wronged.
We express our deep
sympathy for the family members of William "Arnie" Wilkerson and
Harry Dalton whose lives were taken, and for Mark Parker who remains
paralyzed by this crime.
It is our sincere prayer that the wounds of all
those who are grieving because of this crime may find healing. But
we remain convinced that the execution of Thomas Provenzano will
neither restore life nor heal pain. It may satisfy an understandable
desire for vengeance, but retribution cannot justify taking a human
life. The sacredness of human life and the dignity of the human
person remain, even from one who violated the rights of others by
taking their lives.
We renew our call for a moratorium on executions
and join with Pope John Paul II in a re-commitment to end the death
penalty. We are "unconditionally prolife," and we pray that we may
all begin to better realize that increasing reliance on the death
penalty diminishes society as a whole. We urge clemency for Thomas
[The Florida Catholic Conference is an agency of
the Catholic Bishops, established in 1969. It speaks for the Church
in matters of public policy, serves as liaison to government and the
legislature, and coordinates communications and activities between
the church and secular agencies. The Bishops of the seven dioceses
of Florida constitute its Board of Directors.]
Convicted Murderer Executed
By Lise Fisher &
George Hutchens - Gainesville Sun
June 22, 2000
STARKE -- As a lethal cocktail of chemicals began
to flow into his veins, execution witnesses said they saw fear in
convicted killer Thomas Provenzano's eyes.
Provenzano, 51, his face flushed, alternately
gulped for air and puffed short breaths minutes before he was
pronounced dead at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the Florida State Prison
execution chamber. "He was pretty damned scared," said execution
witness Mark Parker, who was left paralyzed by Provenzano's 1984
Orlando courthouse shooting spree. "I'm sure Provenzano is in a lot
warmer place now." Provenzano, who believed he was Jesus Christ,
became the fourth man to be put to death by lethal injection in
Florida this year.
Executioners carried out Provenzano's death
sentence just more than 24 hours after the U.S. Court of Appeals in
Atlanta had issued the inmate a last-minute reprieve Tuesday.
Intravenous needles had already been placed in his arms when prison
officials learned of the stay. The three-judge panel lifted the stay
the next day, offering no explanation for why they had granted one.
The execution was delayed again Wednesday while the Florida Supreme
Court reviewed a stay request received at 6 p.m. -- 30 minutes
before Provenzano was scheduled to die.
Michael Reiter, Provenzano's attorney, said his
client's mental condition had deteriorated and had asked for time to
have him examined by psychiatrists. At 6:44 p.m., the court told Gov.
Jeb Bush the request was denied. Eight minutes later, the procedure
began. Provenzano's last words were for his attorney: "Thanks for
Provenzano was sentenced to death for the 1984
slaying of a bailiff at the Orlando courthouse. Provenzano walked
into the courthouse heavily armed and muttered threats against two
police officers who had charged him with disorderly conduct months
When court officers tried to search him, Provenzano opened
fire. William "Arnie" Wilkerson, 60, who had retired from the Navy
14 years earlier as a lieutenant commander, was fatally shot. Harry
Dalton, 53, a father of six, was shot in the head and was paralyzed.
He died seven years later.
Parker, 36, was a 19-year-old bailiff at
the time of the shooting. Provenzano's attack left him paralyzed
from the shoulders down. "He got off a lot easier than his two
victims," Parker said Wednesday as he explained that he has
undergone nine surgeries since he was paralyzed and that he made the
trip to Starke from his Central Florida home on his back to witness
Provenzano's death. "It's a shame it took almost 16 years to the day
to get this all done."
Dalton's son Gary Dalton, 40, and daughter Teresa
Olrich, 37, said they were glad the "roller-coaster ride" of
Provenzano's appeals is over, but it doesn't erase the memories of
their father's fate. "It brings back everything that happened. For
him, it ended today. For us, it will never end," Gary Dalton said.
A tearful Cathy Parlin, Wilkerson's niece, stood outside the prison
during the execution. She said the delays in Provenzano's execution
were detrimental to all families involved and that the appeals
process is too slow. "Why do they keep us both suffering, dragging
it on like this?" she said. "This is ridiculous. And you know what I
really feel? Like I should shoot that cop over there so I can get a
free college education, food, clothes, all of it for free like he (Provenzano)
Across the field from Parlin, amid a drizzle, a
small vigil took place during the execution. The Rev. Fred R. Ruse
of St. Matthew Catholic Church in Winter Haven returned to Starke
with a handful of friends after learning of the lifted stay at
midday. Ruse said it is another example of why Florida should place
a moratorium on all capital punishment. "It is time for the governor
to sit down and come up with a better solution for this, and it's an
insult to the finest minds in terms of correctional expertise that
this ever happens," Ruse said.
The group of 13 death penalty
protesters stood silent as 6:30 approached. Minutes later, word of
the execution came, and their heads dropped. Five candles were lit
as the drizzle dissipated. Provenzano's sister, Catherine Forbes,
who met with her brother for his last visit Tuesday, issued a
statement before the execution. "Let me say from the outset that my
heart goes out to the people who were killed or injured by my
brother . . . . If it was in my power to restore your lives, I would
do so in an instant . . . . But I have to wonder, where is the
justice in killing a sick human being?" Forbes wrote.
A trial judge decided in December that Provenzano
believed the reason he faced execution was because he was Jesus
Christ. But the judge ruled that wasn't a strong enough reason under
Florida law to spare Provenzano because he also knew he had killed
one man and injured two others. Under state law, condemned killers
can be executed even if they are mentally ill -- unless they don't
understand they are about to be executed and why.
Provenzano v. State,
497 So.2d 1177 (Fla. 1986) (Direct Appeal).
Thomas Harrison Provenzano was convicted of two
counts of attempted first- degree murder and one count of first-degree
murder. The trial court followed the jury's recommendation and
imposed the sentence of death for the first- degree murder.
trial judge also sentenced Provenzano to consecutive thirty-year
sentences for each count of attempted first-degree murder.
Provenzano now appeals his conviction for first-degree murder and
the sentence of death. We have jurisdiction. Art. V, § 3(b)(1), Fla.
Const. We affirm the conviction and death sentence.
On August 1, 1983, officers Shirley and Epperson
of the Orlando Police Department arrested Provenzano for disorderly
conduct. The disorderly conduct charge became an obsession with
Provenzano. From the day he was arrested until January *1180 10,
1984, Provenzano continually followed and threatened to kill the
Provenzano also purchased a .38 caliber
revolver, 12 gauge shotgun, a .45 caliber semi-automatic weapon, and
had pockets sewn into the inside lining of his jacket in order to
conceal the weapons.
On January 9, 1984, Provenzano appeared at the
courthouse wearing black combat boots, army fatigue pants, a long
olive drab army coat, a red bandana and a shoulder bag. Provenzano
left without incident when told that he had arrived a day early for
his disorderly conduct trial.
On January 10, 1984, Provenzano
arrived at the courthouse early and was heard to have said "I can't
wait until those two policemen walk in. I'll show them," and "I'm
going to do it. This is where [these] guys get their ass kicked."
As Provenzano entered Judge Conser's courtroom at about 9:30, he was
carrying a red knapsack, and wearing the same jacket in which he had
the inside pockets sewn. Bailiff Parker stopped Provenzano at the
door and told him that he would have to leave the knapsack outside
or have it searched. Provenzano then took his knapsack to his car.
The knapsack contained a gun stock for his .45 caliber weapon and
ammunition for the .38 caliber revolver.
Provenzano returned to the courtroom without his
knapsack at 10:15. Provenzano approached the bench when his case was
called. Judge Conser then instructed Provenzano to return to the
spectator portion of the courtroom until his attorney arrived.
Bailiff Dalton was instructed to search Provenzano.
approached him saying that he was going to have to be searched and
that he was his friend. Correction Officer Parker exited the
courtroom and reentered directly behind Provenzano. As the defendant
reached in his pocket, Dalton went to grab him and was shot in the
face by Provenzano, who screamed, "You're not my friend, M_____
F_____!" Provenzano then chased and fired at least two shots at
Everyone in the courtroom took cover. The people
in Judge Coleman's adjacent courtroom heard the shots. Bailiff
Wilkerson, the bailiff in charge of Judge Coleman's courtroom,
exited the courtroom into the hallway where the shooting was taking
place. Shortly thereafter, gunshots were heard. A chase ensued.
Provenzano took a military stance in the corner of the hallway where
he yelled, "I'm going to kill you, M_____ F_____, I'm going to kill
all of you."
Provenzano then ducked into room 436, a lunchroom
for bailiffs, and took a barricade position with the shotgun
pointing into the hall. Corporal A.C. Jacobs of the Orange County
Sheriff's Office shot Provenzano in the back through a window.
defendant was armed with a 12 gauge shotgun, a .45 caliber assault
rifle, and a .38 caliber revolver, all loaded with live ammunition.
Dalton and Parker were both shot and injured by Provenzano.
Wilkerson was shot and killed by Provenzano. Appellant alleges that
numerous errors occurred at both the guilt and sentencing phases of
the trial. We find no errors.