The Palm Beach Post publishes the editorial, "Scott should veto ‘Timely Justice Act’ on the death penalty." It's by Randy Schultz for the Post Editorial Board.
In 2006, the American Bar Association showed Florida how to fix the state’s death penalty system in the best way. Having ignored those ideas for seven years, the Legislature now proposes to fix the system in the worst way.
Heading to Gov. Rick Scott is House Bill 7083, titled “The Timely Justice Act.” Rather than seek to make sure that executions are carried out fairly, the legislation seeks to have executions happen sooner. In the state with the most exonerations from Death Row — 24 since 1979 — this would be like giving Bernie Madoff a new line of credit.
Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, is the sponsor of HB 7083. As he put it, there are “problem judges” and lawyers who needlessly drag out Death Row appeals. It is true that of the 405 people awaiting execution, 16 committed their crimes before 1980. But as the legislative staff said in analyzing the bill, the average time between conviction and execution in Florida is 13.22 years, less than the national average.
HB 7083 rests on another faulty premise: All capital punishment cases are the same. A current case is the latest to debunk that premise.
Gov. Rick Scott has signed a death warrant for William Van Poyck. In 1987, as an inmate at Glades Correctional Institution, Van Poyck tried to escape from a doctor’s office in West Palm Beach. Guard Fred Griffis was shot and killed. Van Poyck should be in prison for life. But last week, the wife of the other inmate in the incident backed up Van Poyck’s story that he didn’t fire the fatal shot.
Seven years ago, the American Bar Association recommended that Florida require a 12-0 jury vote to recommend a death sentence, as is required for conviction. Currently, a simple majority is enough to recommend death. That inconsistency is only one reason why Florida has a flawed capital punishment system. Gov. Scott should veto HB 7083 because justice matters more than timeliness.
Syndicated columnist Leonard Pitts writes, "On death penalty, wrongly accused are victims, too." It's via his home paper, the Miami Herald.
At great political peril, George Ryan did the right thing.
Not to canonize the man. After all, the then-governor of Illinois was later imprisoned on corruption charges.
But that doesn’t change the fact that, in 2000, stung that 13 inmates had been exonerated and freed from death row in the previous 23 years, Ryan committed an act of profound moral courage, imposing a moratorium on capital punishment. In 2003, in the waning days of his term, he one-upped himself, commuting every death sentence in his state.
Recalling what Gov. George Ryan once did provides interesting context as Floridians and death penalty opponents around the country wait to see what Gov. Rick Scott will do.
Florida’s chief executive has on his desk awaiting his signature — or, dare we hope, his veto — a piece of legislation called the Timely Justice Act, passed by his state legislature in the apparent belief Florida is not killing people fast enough.
There are 404 people awaiting execution in Florida. We learn from a report by my colleague, Mary Ellen Klas, that 155 of them have been there longer than 20 years, and 10 have been there longer than 35 years. The average wait:13 years.
More to the point, there’s this: Since the death penalty was reinstated in the mid-70s, Florida has executed 75 people. But it has exonerated 24, many of whom spent more than a decade on death row. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, Florida has the highest error rate in the country.
So how can a state that gets it wrong at least one time in every four want to speed up the process? Does no one care about the increased likelihood of executing someone who committed no crime?
We are always called upon to be solicitous of the pain suffered by victims’ families. Where is our solicitude for innocent people, wrong place, wrong time, people — usually indigent people of color — who are rushed, perjured, bumbled, erred and “oopsed” onto death row? Why does their pain affect us less? Why are they less deserving of our compassion? Are they not victims, too?
"Gov. Rick Scott speeds up warrants for Death Row inmates," is by Steve Bousquet, Tallahassee Bureau Chief for the Miami Herald and the Tamp Bay Times.
Gov. Rick Scott has accelerated the pace of signing death warrants in Florida by lining up three executions over the next few weeks, the most in such a brief period of time in more than two decades.
Scott and his chief legal adviser say they are doing nothing unusual. But legal experts who oppose the death penalty wonder whether other factors are at work — such as Scott’s desire to improve his standing with voters as he seeks re-election next year.
Not since 1989, when an unpopular Gov. Bob Martinez set a record by signing six death warrants in a single day, has a Florida governor been so eager to use the death penalty.
“In the past, governors wouldn’t do multiple warrants at a time. It was a much more orderly process than this,” said Martin McClain, an attorney who has defended many Florida Death Row inmates. “It appears that every 10 days, Gov. Scott is signing a death warrant.”
The timing of death warrant signings, and which inmates are chosen, has long been shrouded in mystery in Florida, and has been a subject of consternation among lawyers who represent Death Row inmates. Inmates are allowed to appeal their convictions in both the state and federal courts, and every case undergoes an investigation by the Florida Parole Commission before the governor can sign a death warrant.
But in case after case, the Florida Supreme Court has rejected claims that the death penalty selection process is arbitrary or without standards, and the court has upheld the governor’s “unfettered discretion to select inmates for execution,” as it noted last week in the case of Elmer Carroll, condemned to die for the rape and murder of a 10-year-old girl in Apopka in 1990.
AP coverage is, "Gov. Scott steps up pace on signing death warrants," by Brendan Farrington. It's via the Tallahassee Democrat.
Gov. Rick Scott is signing death warrants at a pace rarely seen in Florida since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976.
Scott already has signed five death warrants this year, including three in a recent span of less than four weeks.
“I go through them and when people have exhausted their appeals and when they’re finished with their clemency process, then I continue to move the process along,” Scott said.
But death-penalty opponents see the surge in death warrants signed as upsetting.
“He’s clearing out death row,” said the Rev. Phil Egitto, a Roman Catholic priest from Daytona Beach who organizes protests at each execution. “It’s very, very crazy. It’s very unusual. It is my understanding that Gov. Scott wants to be hard on crime, but I don’t think this is the answer.”
So far only one of the five condemned men has been executed — Larry Eugene Mann was put to death by lethal injection last month for kidnapping and murdering 10-year-old Elisa Vera Nelson on Nov. 4, 1980. Still, there are five active warrants. Scott signed John Errol Ferguson’s death warrant last year, but the execution has been delayed as his lawyers seek appeals. Florida law states that once a warrant is signed, it remains in full effect even if the initial execution date passes.
If the sentences are carried out this year for each of the active warrants, it would guarantee at least the most executions in Florida in one year since six people were executed in 2000, Gov. Jeb Bush’s second year in office.
David A. Love of Witness to Innocence writes, "Florida's Timely Justice Act Is Neither Timely Nor Justice," for Huffington Post.
George Orwell himself could not have come up with a more deviously named piece of legislation than Florida's ill-advised Timely Justice Act. In the world of doublespeak, it conveys the image of efficiency, effectiveness and fairness, while doing exactly the opposite. Surely, its sponsors wanted to misrepresent and mislead, confuse and obfuscate, and change the subject. Here's why:
The bill -- passed by the Florida legislature and now awaiting the signature of Governor Rick Scott -- would expedite the death penalty process in the Sunshine state. This bill would radically change the death penalty process by taking the power of issuing execution warrants out of the hands of the governor, in favor of an automatic timetable to determine which death row prisoner is next scheduled for execution. The Act would require the governor to sign an execution warrant within 30 days of review by the State Supreme Court. And the state of Florida would be compelled to execute the defendant within 180 days of the warrant.
Supporters say that death penalty appeals take too long, perhaps as long as 20 years, and point to this reality as proof the system is broken.However, by placing death row prisoners on a fast track to execution, the Timely Justice Act will only increase the risk of executing the innocent. Florida has distinguished itself as the state with the highest number of prisoners exonerated from death row -- 24 out of the 142 individuals exonerated nationwide since 1973.
Earlier coverage of the Florida legislation begins at the link.