By Chris Tisch, Times Staff Writer
STARKE — Whenever Florida executes a death row inmate, a group of people stand outside Florida State Prison in protest. Among the protesters: members of Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, a volunteer group led by Clearwater resident Mark Elliott. "I've never been a fan of unnecessary killing," says Elliott, who became involved with the group about five years ago and became its executive director two years ago. Elliott works as a property manager, but says he spends about 40 hours a week doing work for the group, which has about 2,000 subscribers to its newsletter. The Times asked Elliott why he opposes the death penalty. His responses:
• "It's unnecessary. In Florida, we have the alternative of life in prison without the possibility of parole. This amounts to a death sentence that is carried out immediately. There is no wait for justice."
• "The risk of executing the innocent. Florida has exonerated at least 22 people off death row."
• "It diverts millions of dollars from helping victims' families and law enforcement. It costs Florida $50-million a year to have the death penalty on the books."
• "It is racist. In the entire history of our state, there has never been a white person executed for the killing of an African-American. That actually goes back to 1786."
• "No government on earth should decide who lives and who dies. According to Amnesty International, China, Iran, Pakistan, the Sudan, Iraq and the United States account for almost all the world's executions."
• For more information on Elliott's group, visit http://www.fadp.org/.