In 1992, Chadwick Banks was convicted of raping and murdering his 10-year-old stepdaughter Melody Cooper. Banks was also convicted in the killing of his wife and Melody’s mother Cassandra Banks, who was sleeping at the time of her murder. He was sentenced to death.
Twenty-two years later, on Thursday evening, the state of Florida carried out the sentence. Banks, 43, was pronounced dead at 7:27 p.m. by lethal injection. He chose not to take a sedative, according to officials.
In his final words, Banks apologized to the people who were hurt by his actions.
“Year after year, I have tried to come up with a reasonable answer for my actions, but how could such acts be reasonable?” he said.
Cassandra Banks’ mother and Melody’s grandmother, Annette Black, acknowledged Banks’ apology and said she hopes this will influence others to think about the consequences before committing such crimes.
“It’s a pain that cannot be erased,” Black said. “Almost any decision a person makes can be reversed…but once you take a precious life, nothing can ever bring that life back again.”
The execution was originally scheduled for 6 p.m., but a last minute appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court for a stay resulted in a later start. The appeal argued that Florida’s method of lethal injection classifies as cruel and unusual punishment and that Banks’ post-conviction legal representation was inadequate. It was denied.
The last meal Banks ate consisted of fried fish, homemade french fries, hush puppies, old-fashioned dinner rolls, homemade banana pudding, red velvet cake, butter pecan ice cream and a glass of ice water.
Seth Penalver considers Banks a personal friend. Penalver and Banks played basketball and football, worked out and laughed during their time in prison together. Penalver spent 18 years in prison, six on death row, before being exonerated.
“There is no doubt as to his [guilt] … but it still doesn’t make it right,” Penalver said. “Who are we to pick and choose to take somebody’s life?”
Death penalty protestors gathered outside of the Florida State Prison to light candles and sing songs in support of Banks. Banks wrote a letter to the group to be read at the gathering. In it, he thanked them for their love and support and said, “I don’t know what tomorrow will bring, but today I’m alright.”
Mark Elliott, executive director of Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, was among the protestors.
“It’s just revenge killings,” he said. “There’s no need to kill someone who’s going to be in prison and never get out anyway.”
Banks is the 20th inmate to be executed under Gov. Rick Scott. This is the largest number of executions to occur during a governor’s single term in office.
According to the Florida Department of Corrections, in the 1972 case of Furman v. Georgia the U.S. Supreme Court held that the death penalty was unconstitutional. As a result of this decision, the sentences of 95 men and one woman on Florida’s Death Row were commuted to life in prison.
But the Court overturned its ruling and reinstated capital punishment in the 1976 case of Gregg v. Georgia. Eighty-nine people have been put to death in Florida since executions resumed in the state in 1979.
Turosia Bright, a friend and coworker of Cassandra Banks, was also present outside of the prison to show her support for Cassandra.
“We are here in support of the sentence being carried out in the manner that we wish that it be carried out,” Bright said. “It doesn’t give resolve to the situation, but it gives a bit of closure.”
On Sept. 24, 1992, Bright was supervising a shift that Cassandra was supposed to be working, but Cassandra never showed up. When she didn’t come into work, Bright went to the house to knock on her door. Later that day, Bright learned that Cassandra and Melody’s bodies had been found.
“He took two precious lives, very innocent lives, lives that could have been very prosperous, in a most defaming manner, cruel manner,” Bright said.
Fourteen people visited Banks on the day of his death, including his parents, nine siblings, a friend and his spiritual advisor. However, none of his family witnessed the execution.