Saturday, 25 October 2008
Death Penalty Report Ignored - Reforms recommended two years ago have yet
Oct. 25 FLORIDA:
Death Penalty Report Ignored----Reforms recommended two years ago have yet to occur. 2 years ago, an independent panel made 12 recommendations to reform Florida's death penalty process.
That report has since done little more than gather dust ever since.
None of the proposals from the American Bar Association panel of judges, prosecutors, defense lawyers and college professors has been adopted by the state and it's now unlikely any ever will be.
Some panel members say it all comes down to politics: Gov. Charlie Crist and state lawmakers don't want to appear soft on the death penalty by adopting measures that would be seen as impeding executions.
Some of the recommendations were controversial. One required that juries be unanimous in recommending death and would make it illegal for a judge to overrule a jury that has recommended life in prison instead of death. Currently, a jury's vote is only advisory and can be split.
Other recommendations included requiring better qualifications and pay for appellate lawyers; taking steps to eliminate juror confusion on capital cases; examining racial and geographic disparities in sentencing; and creating commissions to explore the cause of wrongful convictions and review claims of innocence.
Christopher Slobogin, a former University of Florida law professor, was the chairman of the panel. He said state politicians fear that if they took up the panel's recommendations that "would make them look like they were anti-death penalty, which is the kiss of death, so to speak, in Florida politics."
But some legislators defended themselves.
"We've looked at all the recommendations that were available and we've made the necessary changes," said state Sen. Victor Crist, who is not related to the governor. "Our experts tell us we've done everything we need to do. Florida has the most highly advanced, most aggressively funded and most finely tuned death penalty process and representation anywhere in the world." (source: Associated Press)