Jerry White (February 12, 1948 – December 4, 1995) was executed by electric chair by the state of Florida in 1995 for the murder of James Melson, a shopper in a grocery that White robbed in Orange County in 1981. Mr. Melson was shot in the back of the head.
On March 8, 1981, Melson asked his brother to go with him to Alexander's Grocery on Palm Avenue in Taft in south Orange County. McDonald chose to stay home, a decision that has haunted him ever since. About 11:30 a.m. White - an ex-con with a violent past - walked in and ordered Melson and Alexander into the freezer. Prosecutors say he shot them in the back of their heads - execution style - to eliminate witnesses to his robbery.
Melson, 34, a Vietnam veteran and Orange County equipment operator, died at a hospital. Alexander, 53, was paralyzed from the neck down and unable to speak. For four years he was trapped in a hospital bed, hooked to a respirator that sustained his life. He died of heart failure and other complications.
At White's 1982 trial jurors took only 40 minutes to convict him of first-degree murder and armed robbery. His last-minute appeals centered on whether his attorney had done enough and whether recently uncovered witness statements, blood splatters and White's IQ of 72 would have made a difference. Five courts decided White's fate would have been the same.
In 1999, the state of Florida heard a petition from Thomas Harrison Provenzano, another Death Row inmate, that argued that the electric chair was a cruel and unusual punishment. During the proceedings, Michael Minerva, who had witnessed White's death, said that "White's body stiffened and was thrust upward and backward to the back of the electric chair" after the current had been switched on to the chair. He also said that he heard air moving through White's lips and throat, though he could not tell whether the air was going in or out.