Florida is worried that it’s not killing people fast enough
Florida is worried that it’s not killing people fast enough. From Emily Bazelon:
[Florida] recently became the first in the country to pass a bill requiring the pace of executions to speed up. It’s called the Timely Justice Act, and it sets a deadline of 30 days for the governor to sign a death warrant once an inmate’s appeals become final—that is, after at least one round of state and federal appeals, and after a review by the governor for clemency. And once the governor signs the warrant, the Timely Justice Act says the execution must occur within 180 days. Scott signed the bill into law late Friday.
This is a particularly troubling plan given the circumstances in Florida. Since the mid-1970s, the state has executed 77 people. Florida has also exonerated 24 people who’ve been sentenced to die—the most of any state. In other words, for every three inmates executed, one is set free.
Apparently, the justification being offered for this (for those who are willing to talk about it) is a claim that people who are on death row, and their lawyers, are sitting on evidence that could exonerate them, so this will encourage them to move faster so that the innocent won’t be affected.
Bradley insists that the Timely Justice Act won’t make it quicker and easier to execute someone who is innocent. “What it does is it puts the condemned and his or her lawyers on notice that they need to, if they have claims of innocence, they need to gather them and present them to a competent court of law, and do so in a timely manner,” he said.
But there are a couple of problems with that argument. One is that evidence of innocence can surface years after a conviction. Courts move slowly on these cases for a reason: death is different, as the U.S. Supreme Court has said many times.
You may ask yourself – why would a person sit on information that could spring them from death row? But that is a silly question. These people want to kill people faster and have no regard for getting the right person. Scott Lemeiux is right to call this The “Let’s Kill As Many Innocent People As Possible” Act.
It is also worth noting that there is no appropriate speed for the state to kill the innocent, no amount of violating due process that is reasonable, no way to make the death penalty comport with the requirements of due process and equal protection. The death penalty is not limited to states like Texas, Georgia and Florida, and it is next to impossible to stop it there until it’s ended in places like California, Pennsylvania and Colorado. We have a lot of work to do.
And don’t forget – the public is far less supportive of the death penalty than the media would have you believe, so once again, blaming voters is a cop out.
Death penalty statutes in the United States as of March 2013
[Update] Apparently, North Carolina was concerned it was doing too much to combat racial discrimination in the administration of its death penalty. See North Carolina Repeals Law That Targeted Racial Bias In Death Row Sentences , on the repeal of the Racial Justice Act. You won’t see many (any?) death penalty supporters criticizing either of these decisions. It’s important to remember that the Venn diagram of those who support the death penalty and those who are concerned about fairness does not intersect.