So why take 26 years to carry out the sentence in a clear-cut case? It's simple: There are plenty of other examples of wrongful convictions that result in death sentences. And when the state executes the wrong person, there's no making up for the mistake.
That's why there is reason to be wary of state Rep. Matt Gaetz's call to speed up executions. Gaetz, a Fort Walton Beach Republican who chairs the House Criminal Justice subcommittee, has said that long delays in carrying out executions show that Florida has a broken death-penalty system.
He's right about the system being broken — but not only in the way that he suggests. Last year, Florida ranked No. 1 in death sentences imposed. The state also has the dubious distinction of exonerating more death-sentenced inmates that any other state since 1973, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.
Some of those exonerations come too late. Frank Lee Smith died of cancer after spending 14 years on Florida's death row for rape and murder. Eleven months after his death, he was exonerated based on DNA testing.
Florida's death-penalty problems go beyond high-profile exonerations. In 2006, the American Bar Association issued a report on Florida's death penalty that found racial disparities in death sentences, juror confusion about the requirements for those sentences and problems with the pay and qualifications of defense attorneys in capital cases.
The report called for capital jurors to be unanimous in recommending death sentences, something that the Florida Supreme Court has also recommended. Florida is currently the only state with the death penalty that doesn't require a unanimous verdict in capital cases.
Earlier coverage from Florida begins at the link.