The Death Penalty makes mistakes. 24 prisoners have moved from Florida’s Death Row to Freedom, the highest number in the nation, due to evidence of innocence. Floridians are questioning the enforcement of the Death Penalty as they become aware of the high risk of executing innocent people. There is 1 exoneration for every 3 executions.
The Death Penalty wastes money. Florida tax payers pay about $1 million dollars a week for the Death Penalty. This exceeds the cost of a life sentence without parole. There have been 14,000 unsolved homicides in the past 30 years since Florida resumed executions. Since lack of funding prevents most of these homicides from being solved, reallocating death penalty funds would be a better use of crime-fighting dollars.
The Death Penalty is biased. Prosecutors are over 3 times more likely to seek the death penalty when the victim is white rather than when the victim is African-American. Never in the history of Florida has a white person been executed for killing an African-American. In Duval county, from 2009 to 2012, 80% of those sentenced to death were African-Americans (that number jumped to 100% in 2011). In Florida’s 4th Judicial Circuit, 65% of those sentenced to death were African-American who comprise only 16% of Florida’s total population.
The Death Penalty puts Florida on the wrong side of history. There have been 74 executions in Florida since 1979, the 4th highest number of any state. Florida has the 2nd largest death row in the U.S., approximately 400 people currently. 1 of every 4 death sentences in the nation occurs in Florida.
While Florida lags behind, change is happening nationally: 61% of Americans support life without parole over the death penalty for the crime of murder. 5 states in the past 5 years have ended the death penalty making a total of 17 states without the death penalty. And many of the states that have the death penalty have not sentenced or executed anyone for at least ten years.
In Florida, all that’s needed to recommend death is a simple majority jury vote of 7 to 5, not a consensus. The Timely Justice Act (HB 7083), signed by Governor Rick Scott and effective as of July 1, 2013, is designed to speed up executions. Section 12 states that within 30 days after receiving notice from the Clerk of the Florida Supreme Court of those who have exhausted their appeals and habeas petitions, the Governor shall issue a warrant for execution directing the warden to execute the sentence within 180 days. Instead of seeking ways to execute quickly, when even 1 innocent death is 1 too many, abolishing Florida’s flawed death penalty would constitute a Timely Justice Act in the true sense, executing justice and not people.
Take this litmus test to determine how you truly feel about the death penalty by asking yourself this poignant question – If you were the unfortunate victim of a homicide, would you support the death penalty for your murderer??? And there you have it.
American Civil Liberties Union: www.aclu.org
Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty: www.fadp.org
Timely Justice Act: www.floridacapitalresourcecenter.org
Florida Department of Corrections Death Row Roster: http://www.dc.state.fl.us/activeinmates/deathrowroster.asp