Grotesque Speed for Florida Capital Cases

From the NYTimes:

The Timely Justice Act, a grotesquely named bill passed by the Florida Legislature, could get to Gov. Rick Scott as soon as this week for him to sign into law. The measure would require a governor to sign a death warrant within 30 days of a review of a capital conviction by the State Supreme Court, and the state would be required to execute the defendant within 180 days of the warrant.

Also this week, an inmate on Florida’s death row, Clemente Javier Aguirre-Jarquin, presented DNA evidence that could exonerate him. He was convicted in 2006 of murdering two women, based largely on circumstantial evidence. On Monday, he was in court seeking a new trial because the DNA evidence showed that blood at the crime scene — none of it his — was that of a victim’s daughter, who, his lawyers argue, likely committed the murders.

Mr. Aguirre-Jarquin’s case offers good reason for Governor Scott to veto the bill. The state’s indisputably defective death penalty system is made more horrifying by attempts to rush inmates to execution. There is a strong chance that Mr. Aguirre-Jarquin will become the 25th death-row inmate exonerated in Florida since it reinstated capital punishment in 1973. More death-row inmates have been exonerated in Florida than in any state.

As the American Bar Association explained in a scathing 2006 report on the state’s death penalty system, Florida is one of the few states that allows a jury to recommend a sentence of death based on a majority vote rather than a unanimous one. Defendants charged with capital crimes often have woefully unqualified counsel, and are much more likely to be convicted and sentenced to death if the victim is white — a sign of racial disparity that is clearly unconstitutional. The flaws in Florida’s system, which soaks up huge amounts of resources, cannot be fixed. It is long past time to abolish capital punishment.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s