Anthony Farina was just 18 years old when he was sentenced to death in Florida, despite being innocent of murder.
He is facing execution for a killing committed by his brother during a robbery. Anthony did not pull the trigger and was not carrying a gun, but has spent 22 years on death row. He is now 40 years old.
Anthony is innocent of murder. He was caught up in a robbery at a fast food restaurant, during which his 16 year old brother shot and killed a member of staff. Anthony never held the gun, and nor did did he pull the trigger.
Although initially both Anthony and his brother were sentenced to death, his brother’s death sentence was subsequently commuted to life after the US Supreme Court banned capital punishment for children. Had Anthony been just five months younger he would not have been eligible for the death penalty. He has now been on death row for over half his life.
But there is hope. Last year – Reprieve and the Italian government’s help – a Federal Court ordered a new sentencing hearing for Anthony.
Although positive, this is a very fragile victory. Even for Anthony’s resentencing, the State of Florida continues to seek the death penalty. His greatest fear is that once again, he will be sentenced to death.
Anthony grew up in utter deprivation. He was so badly sexually abused that he suffered organ damage, and so badly physically abused that he was taken away from his mother and placed in a care home. His mother did not visit him once. When Anthony was a little boy, his mother made him and his brother shoplift to support the family.
At the trial, the prosecutor used religious dogma to scare the jury into sentencing Anthony to death. He told them it didn’t matter how Anthony died; salvation would ensure he went to heaven. He also argued that Jesus himself was a believer in the death penalty, evidenced by the fact that he failed to take ‘that felon’ next to him off the cross at the time of his own crucifixion. It was the prosecutor’s improper use of religion at trial that led to the court order for a new sentencing hearing.
Anthony has a long-time supporter in Livia Firth, who has campaigned to save his life. In a recent letter to her, Anthony said:
“I could never begin to thank you or put into words the depths of my appreciation for you. I could never begin to repay the kindness you have shown me. That is what makes what you have done so special, because you did it never expecting anything in return.”