"Fla. House panel votes to keep death penalty," is the AP report, via the Gainesville Sun.
Florida lawmakers are rejecting calls to scrap the death penalty in the state.
A Florida House panel on Thursday voted down a bill that called for the end of capital punishment. Florida currently has more than 400 inmates on Death Row - the second highest total in the nation.
Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda, D-Tallahassee, and sponsor of the bill (HB 4005) said the death penalty is too costly and is wrong for moral and ethical reasons. She also questioned whether it is a crime deterrent.
The Tallahassee Democrat reports, "Death-penalty abolition bill quashed." It's written by Travis Pillow.
State Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda has been on a three-year quest to abolish the death penalty in Florida.
The Democrat from Tallahassee has introduced the bill three times, only to have it ignored by legislative leaders.
That changed on Thursday, when Matt Gaetz, the Fort Walton Beach Republican who chairs the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee, agreed to have the bill heard. Nearly an hour of debate on the costs, morality and fairness of capital punishment culminated with the bill getting voted down along party lines, with Democrats in support and the majority of Republicans in opposition.
Her bill is dead for the 2013 legislative session. But Rehwinkel Vasilinda said she plans to bring it back next year.
For the first time, a legislative panel heard her arguments alongside those of clergymen, criminologists and civil-rights activists who came to state their case — that the death penalty is anachronistic, expensive, at times unfairly applied and opposed by a range of religious faiths.
“The death penalty is incompatible with the evolving standards of decency of a contemporary society,” said Rep. Kionne McGhee, a Democrat from Miami who said he has lost both a father and a brother to homicide. “There is no going back once that switch has been moved.”
Gaetz has now set his sights on resolving death penalty cases more quickly. In the coming weeks, he said his committee will look for ways to curb “insincere appeals” that can delay executions long after conviction. The Department of Corrections reports condemned prisoners in the state are on Death Row for an average of more than 13 years before execution.
“It is an accurate statement that the capital system we have now costs too much, could and should cost less, and that’s work we hope to undertake,” he said.
Other groups have called for greater scrutiny of the state’s procedures for death penalty cases. Florida led the nation in capital sentences last year, in part because of a rule allowing juries in the state to issue death sentences with a simple majority, rather than a unanimous vote.
"Death Penalty Bill Dead For The Session" is Rick Stone's report for WLRN-FM/TV.
The vote was largely along party lines, with the majority Republicans voting in favor of preserving the death penalty.
The death penalty debate is playing out against new information that "cultural changes" within the Department of Corrections have dramatically reduced the number of ex-convicts who commit new crimes within three years of their release. State prisons boss Mike Crews said a new emphasis on education, job training and drug treatment inside has allowed more and more felons to be released with job skills and no drug habits.
Gov. Rick Scott's office says the decline in recidivism has reduced prison admissions by 21 percent over the last four years, saving the state an estimated $44 million.
The new prison programs are part of Crews' Transition from Prison to Community Initiative, and he says it’s a real departure from the past. "Historically in our agency, it has been about locking them up, turning them out and hoping for the best when they get out," Crews said.
WFSU-FM reports, "Fla. Capital Punishment Ban Dies In First Committee Hearing," by Jessica Palombo.
The death penalty was the subject of about an hour’s worth of testimony and debate before the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee overwhelmingly voted the bill down. Committee Chair Matt Gaetz and several other Republicans voted no, but he said, it was an important question for the state to consider, even though he faced criticism for putting it on the agenda.
“It will be a hallmark of this committee, as a result of our thoughtful members, that we will take up the big issues, we won’t shy away from them, and we will debate them in a thoughtful and helpful manner, and it will lead us to better public policy,” he said.
And Gaetz said, as passionate as supporters of the bill are, he’s equally passionate about preserving the death penalty.
“Who are we as a Legislature to now tell juries that they don’t have the opportunity to recommend a death sentence if in fact they’ve endured the fatigue and are willing to impose that sentence?” he asked.
Earlier coverage from Florida begins at the link.