Catholic bishops urge Governor DeSantis to spare the life of James Barnes
July 26, 2023 • Diocese of St. Augustine

The Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops (FCCB) has requested that Gov. Ron DeSantis stay the execution of James Barnes and commute his sentence to life without parole. Barnes is scheduled to be executed on August 3, at 6:00 p.m. He was sentenced to death for the 1988 murder of Patricia “Patsy” Miller in Brevard County, Fla. He is also serving a life sentence for the 1997 murder of his wife, Linda Barnes.

In a July 24, 2023, letter to DeSantis on behalf of the bishops of Florida, Michael Sheedy, FCCB executive director, acknowledged that Barnes’ violent crimes have brought immense grief and suffering to the families and friends of his victims.

Sheedy also noted the unique circumstances of the case. Barnes represented himself at the trial for Miller’s murder, where he pled guilty and waived mitigation as well as a jury for sentencing. He was convicted and sentenced to death in 2007. Since the signing of his death warrant, Barnes has moved to discharge counsel, waive any final appeals and proceed with the execution.

“Mr. Barnes’ willing acceptance of death, the punishment put in place by the justice system, does not absolve the state from bringing it about,” said Sheedy. “Simply put, no one should be executed in our modern penal system, even if they willingly accept it. The alternative punishment of life in prison without parole is a severe penalty that still provides closure to victims and protects society.”

Before Barnes’ scheduled execution, Floridians will gather across the state to pray for him and his victims, for Governor DeSantis as he considers the request to stay the execution, and for an end to the cycle of violence in society.

The full text of the letter to Gov. Ron DeSantis is available here.

In the Diocese of St. Augustine, Catholics will gather to pray a Holy Hour or attend Mass at 10 locations. For churches and times, download this informational flyer. Also, Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (FADP) will host a virtual Vigil. To register, visit

The Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops is an agency of the Catholic Bishops of Florida. It speaks for the church in matters of public policy and serves as a liaison to the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government. The archbishop and bishops of the seven (arch)dioceses in Florida constitute its board of directors.