When I started this blog back in September 2011, little was being said about Florida’s death row or the death penalty in general across the nation. But not long after, a series of events, including the execution of Troy Davis and Rick Perry’s presidential campaign, catapulted the death penalty debate back into the national spotlight.
The debate is far more pro than anti in Florida, where the most people were sentenced to death in 2012 , but a few voices, like Rep. Rehwinkel Vasilinda, have been questioning the system, and now a spate of editorials in Florida papers are calling for closer scrutiny of the state’s death penalty. From The Miami Herald to The Tampa Bay Times, suddenly papers are taking notice of the fact that the Sunshine State is the state with the most death row exonerations, the second-largest death row in the U.S. and the state that generated more than a fourth of new death sentences last year.
Here’s a roundup of the editorials, all of which came out within a little more than a week of each other:
“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….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.”
Tampa Bay Times editorial: First, Review Flawed Death Row System
“Only mischief will result from moving death penalty rule-making from the judicial branch….To zero in on the problems with Florida’s death penalty system, a comprehensive review by all three branches of government is needed, as the Florida Bar’s Board of Governors said in its resolution Friday. The state hasn’t undertaken an official review, besides a look into a botched execution under Bush, in over a decade. In 2006, a two-year study of Florida’s system by the American Bar Association pointed up issues that the state has yet to address. Without understanding what those problems are, there is no basis for a discussion on reform.”
Miami Herald editorial: Justice Denied
“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….ow, 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?”
Palm Beach Post editorial: Limiting Death Row Appeals Would Mean Executing the Innocent
“Limiting appeals only will increase the flaws. In 2000, Mr. Bush and the Legislature wanted no more than 10 years to pass between conviction and execution. Under that rule, Florida would have executed seven innocent people. Just weeks before the Florida Supreme Court tossed that 2000 overreach, an Alachua County man was acquitted after being wrongfully convicted for murder….After the court ruling 13 years ago, John Thrasher — then House speaker and now a state senator — fumed, “How much longer can we continue to tip the scales of justice in favor of convicted murderers…?” In fact, fixing the system would tip the scale of justice in favor of justice.”