Florida Supreme Court refuses to halt execution of Duane Owen

Published: Jun. 5, 2023 at 8:11 PM EDT
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The Florida Supreme Court on Monday refused to block next week’s planned execution of Duane Owen, who murdered two Palm Beach County women in 1984.

The seven justices unanimously rejected arguments about Owen's mental competency with execution by lethal injection scheduled for June 16. Liberal Justice Jorge Labarga recused himself without explanation.

"We affirm the summary denial of Owen's fourth motion for postconviction relief, along with the circuit court's denial of his motion for competency determination and his motion for MRI and PET scan," the opinion said. "We also deny his motion for stay of execution."

The high court said it will not hear any petitions for another hearing on the matter.

They also upheld Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Jeffrey Gillen's ruling that Owen's competency "does not constitute newly discovered evidence."

Owen murdered babysitter Karen Slattery, a 14-year-old high school freshman, and Georgianna Worden, a mother of two, in separate Palm Beach County attacks in 1984.

The death warrant is for Worden's death. Owen was sentenced separately in Slattery's stabbing death and sexual assault.

On May 24, Gov. Ron DeSantis "dissolved and terminated" a temporary stay of execution for Owen, who is scheduled to die by lethal injection on June 15.

Earlier in May, DeSantis issued an executive order to temporarily stay the convicted murderer's execution after Owen's attorneys argued that he may be insane.

The stay was in place while three psychiatrists — Drs. Wade Myers, Tonia Werner and Emily Lazarou — determined Owen's mental competency.

In an executive order dissolving the stay, DeSantis said that the psychiatrists concluded Owen "has the mental capacity to understand the death penalty and the reasons why it is to be imposed upon him," making the stay "no longer necessary."

Now 62, Owen broke into a Delray Beach home in March 1984 and attacked Slattery while she was babysitting. Slattery was repeatedly stabbed and sexually assaulted.

Two months later, Owen broke into a Boca Raton home, where he beat Worden to death with a hammer and sexually assaulted her. The 38-year-old mother's body was found by her two children the following day.

Owen was arrested soon after and confessed to the crimes. He was later convicted of first-degree murder and sexual battery with a deadly weapon for both crimes and sentenced to death.

The death warrant signed by DeSantis on May 9 remains in full effect.

The U.S. Supreme Court is the last resort for defendants appealing their death sentence.

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