Florida always is looking to raise its national ranking on issues ranging from education to employment.
But there’s one area where the state is No. 1 that isn’t necessarily a point of pride. Last year, for the second year running, Florida was tops in the number of new death sentences imposed, with 22. At the same time, Florida also is No. 1 in people who have seen their death sentences overturned, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.
One contributor to the high number of people on Death Row is Florida’s unusual requirement that a jury needs only a majority vote to recommend a death sentence. Former Florida Supreme Court Justice Raoul Cantero has pushed for years for a change; the current policy not only increases the risk that the death penalty is applied improperly but also burdens the courts with appeals of those sentences.
A remedy would be SB 148, sponsored by state Sen. Thad Altman, a Republican who represents parts of Brevard and Indian River counties. It would require a unanimous vote of a jury to recommend death. However, a similar bill went nowhere in the Legislature last year.In 2005, the state Supreme Court called for a review of capital sentencing, and then-Gov. Jeb Bush said it was “definitely worth consideration.” But the Legislature has not followed up, and in 2011, Gov. Rick Scott signed legislation that abolished the Commission on Capital Cases, created in 1997 to provide oversight of the processes used to carry out capital punishment.
Nobody wants to see an innocent person executed. In the interest of justice, the Florida Bar and the Legislature should do all they can to ensure that the death penalty administered in our names is being handled in as fair a way as possible.
Earlier coverage from Florida begins at the link