"Review of Florida’s death penalty system sorely needed," is the editorial published in today's Miami Herald.
Florida’s death penalty system is terribly flawed. Lawmakers have known that since at least 2006, when the American Bar Association released an exhaustive report calling the system “fraught with problems,” including racial disparities.
But almost no fixes were made. Meanwhile, evidence of a system gone awry has piled up.
Last year, Florida sentenced 22 people to death, more than any of the other 32 states that impose the penalty. It’s the second year in a row the state has reached that stark benchmark. Yet Florida also leads the nation in the number of Death Row exonerations, with 24 since 1973, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.
Before you try to reconcile those two numbers, add this: a triple murderer from Miami-Dade County is still on Death Row 39 years after his original crimes. Though a federal judge threw out two of his death sentences late last year, Thomas Knight remains on Death Row for a third. Two other Death Row residents have been there even longer.
Added together, it paints an appalling picture of Florida. Record numbers of death sentences. Record numbers of exonerations. Killers who live for almost four decades on Death Row. Surely this is not what anyone wants — on either side of this painful and divisive issue.
Now, a glimmer of hope: Last week, the Florida Bar adopted a position supporting a comprehensive review of Florida’s entire death penalty process by all branches of government. That’s leadership in the right direction. Is anyone in Tallahassee listening?
The Orlando Sentinel publishes, "What we think: Time to repair busted death-penalty system."
State Rep. Matt Gaetz recently argued Florida's death-penalty system is broken. His solution: Limit what The called "legal gamesmanship" and waves of "endless, insincere appeals."
Doing so would slash the nearly 14 years victims' families wait on average for the condemned to get the needle.
When you're right, you're right. And the Fort Walton Beach Republican is correct: Florida's system is out of order.
How to shave time off death-row residency is a worthy discussion. But Gaetz's interest in hastening death — something the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee will likely broach during a workshop Thursday — is reckless until the state first tackles glaring flaws that mock justice.
State officials should instead follow the counsel of the American Bar Association's Board of Governors, whose 2006 ABA study of Florida's laws (largely ignored) recommended a broad review of the state's death-penalty process.
"Capital review," is the Panama City News Herald editorial.
Florida’s system of capital punishment is “broken” according to Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach. By that he means the state is not executing prisoners on death row fast enough. Gaetz, the chairman of the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee will be holding a hearing Thursday on streamlining the post-conviction appeals process to speed up execution.
Meanwhile, Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda, D-Tallahassee, has filed a bill that would abolish the death penalty in Florida. That’s about as likely to pass as the Louisiana Superdome winning an award from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.
Before the Legislature tinkers with the death penalty, it should know exactly what it’s dealing with. Florida would be wise to embrace the recommendation made more than five years ago by the American Bar Association to conduct a complete review of all three branches of government and how they administer capital punishment.
Earlier coverage from Florida begins at the link.