"WFSU-FM reports, "Lawmakers Looking To Streamline Florida's Death Penalty Process." It's by Sascha Cordner, and there is audio at the link. Here's an extended excerpt, but those watching Florida legislation will want to read the entire report.
Florida is one of the top states in the nation with the most number of people facing the death penalty—Close to half of which have been on death row for at least 20 years. And, a group of lawmakers is now trying to streamline the death penalty process through a couple of measures, but it’s facing much opposition.
Today, there are about 400 people on death row in Florida. That’s more than any other state aside from California. On average, it’s estimated that Florida death row inmates spend about 13 years on death row prior to execution, and Republican Representative Matt Gaetz says something has to be done.
“Our focus was on streamlining the process so that we didn’t have these cases lingering for 14, 15, 25 years,” said Gaetz.
Gaetz as the chair of the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee is spearheading an effort to streamline the death penalty process in Florida. Gaetz says it’s the lengthy appeals process that is contributing to delays in executions. So, through a proposed constitutional amendment, he hopes to only allow lawmakers to have rulemaking authority over the post-conviction appeals process, rather than courts.
He also has another proposal that outlines steps on how the Legislature should go about cutting down on the lengthy appeal process. That includes a provision that he hopes will stop “insincere” appeals from lawyers who say they were ineffective as counsel.
But, Rex Dimmig with the Florida Public Defenders Association says he understands the need to punish lawyers who deliberately make those claims. But, the bill forces lawyers who sincerely admit they were ineffective to stop practicing for five years. And, Dimmig says that’s unfair.
“Honestly, capital cases take weeks to try. Mistakes can be made, and they are mistakes," Dimmig emphasized. "To take one of our lawyers—and capital lawyers have to have special qualifications, have to be specially trained—to take the limited resources we have of capital attorneys because someone has made a mistake and say for five years they cannot practice as a capital attorney, we believe is too harsh."
Another provision in the bill would eliminate publicly-financed clemency counsel for death row inmates. And, some like, Judge Belvin Perry, a Circuit Judge from the 9th Judicial Circuit, that’s not a solution to systemic problem and warned the state could have a legal challenge on its hands.
Earlier coverage of Florida capital punishment legislation begins at the link; also available, coverage of the case of Paul Howell, who has received no federal habeas review of his conviction and sentence.