Count on Florida to concoct laws that have nothing to do with justice, but much to do with political expediency.
It’s been that way for a while.
In 2010, under the pretense of preventing voter fraud, the GOP-led Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott limited early voting hours and imposed other inconveniences that led to block-long lines at the polls in 2012, and made Florida the laughingstock of the nation as it was in 2000.
But now it seems that while many of those same lawmakers didn’t mind people waiting too long to vote, some can’t stand the thought of death row inmates waiting too long to die.
No matter that, especially in Florida, some of those inmates may be innocent.
But that apparently doesn’t matter to those who overwhelmingly passed the Timely Justice Act bill – which is now awaiting Scott’s signature. Under the bill, inmates who believe they have been wrongly condemned would get roughly eight months to prove their innocence. After that, Scott would be required to sign a death warrant within 30 days.
After that, they’d get the needle in 180 days.
First of all, it’s laughable and disturbing that Florida, which with 24 exonerations has the most of any state, would be trying to speed up executions. If anything, it should be trying to slow them down – so as not to have the blood of another Frank Lee Smith on their hands.
Smith spent 14 years on death row before being exonerated of raping and murdering an 8-year-old girl in 1985. His conviction came largely because of eyewitness testimony, which is known to be unreliable. The legal advice Smith received to plead insanity didn’t help; the jury convicted him and sentenced him to death in 1986.
His death warrant was signed in 1989, but after receiving a stay after one eyewitness changed her testimony years later, Smith’s attorneys began requesting DNA testing in 1998.
But cancer claimed Smith before justice came. He died in prison in January 2000 – eleven months before DNA tests not only cleared him of the crime, but also identified the true perpetrator.