Saturday, June 15, 2013


Speeding Up Executions Increases the Risk of Executing the Innocent
Tallahassee, FL – June 14, 2013 – Florida Governor Rick Scott has now signed the “Timely Justice Act” into law. It is aimed at speeding up and increasing executions by “streamlining” the process through limiting appeals and mandating prompt Death Warrants.
Since Florida resumed executions in the 1970’s, twenty-four wrongfully convicted Death Row prisoners have been exonerated thus far (the largest number of wrongfully convicted and exonerated death-sentenced prisoners of any state in the country) while seventy-seven prisoners have been executed. “That’s one exoneration for every three executions,” said Mark Elliott, Director of Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty. “It is unconscionable to hurry up executions and further restrict access to evidence of innocence.”
 “No one knows how many more innocent people are awaiting execution on Florida’s Death Row. A new law that speeds up executions by limiting appeals will almost certainly lead to the execution of innocent men and women,” Elliott added.
The Death Penalty Information Center lists Florida Death Row inmates who were under a sentence of death for more than 10 years before being exonerated by new evidence of their innocence:
James Richardson (21 years), Juan Melendez (18), Rudolph Holton (16), Frank Lee Smith (14), Freddie Pitts (12), Wilbur Lee (12), Joseph Brown (13), and Seth Penalver (13).
According to the Innocence Project of Florida, in January, 2000, some 14 years after his death sentence, Frank Lee Smith died of cancer on Florida’s Death Row. After his death, DNA testing not only confirmed his innocence, but identified the real perpetrator.
Less than six months ago, Seth Penalver became Florida’s 24th exonerated Death Row prisoner. Penalver was released after 18 years in prison and on Death Row. “If executions are sped up, then we will be killing innocent people like me.” said Penalver.  “Evidence of my innocence was withheld and hidden for almost eighteen years after my conviction.” Seth Penalver is one of eight Floridians who were exonerated more than ten years after being sentenced to death. “Executing innocent people is murder by all, not justice for all,” said Penalver.
Juan Melendez was on Florida’s Death Row for almost 18 years for a crime he did not commit. A "lost" confession by the real perpetrator was presented some 16 years after his conviction. Melendez was exonerated and freed.
There have been wrongful convictions where it has taken 10 or 20 years for evidence of innocence to emerge. “For those who support the death penalty, it has to be more important to get it right than get it done,” said Elliott.
Florida has the nation’s second largest Death Row with 405 people, according to the Death Penalty Information Center’s latest report, The Death Penalty in 2012: Year End Report. Florida also sentences far more people to death than any other state.  Last year, Florida had 22 new death sentences out of 78 nationally---that’s more than one quarter of ALL new death sentences in the U.S.
“It is obvious why Florida has such a large Death Row.” Said Elliott, “With one out of every four of the nation’s new death sentences, along with one exoneration for every three executions, the focus should be on how Florida sentences so many people to death, especially so many innocent people, not on executing more people faster.”
“This legislation is not only dangerous, it is unwarranted and unnecessary,” said Elliott. “Some legislators exploited the fact that some inmates have spent years on Death Row, but the facts also reveal that time spent on Death Row in Florida prior to execution is almost 2 years less than the national average.”  The Florida Department of Corrections, Death Row Roster lists average length of stay on Florida’s Death Row prior to execution as 13.22 years. The U.S. Bureau of Justice report, Capital Punishment, 2010 lists the average time nationally between sentencing and execution as 14.83 years.
 “Florida’s system of state executions is like a rickety old public bus that costs millions of dollars to operate,” Elliott said. “The brakes are shot and the steering is out and it's constantly crashing into innocent people. The answer shouldn’t be to pack in more passengers, hit the gas and go faster.”
“We need answers, not more executions,” said Elliott. “Florida’s government program for the Death Penalty is broken, not because it is too slow, but because it is a hugely expensive, wasteful, government program that, with all its wrongful convictions, risks making murderers out of us all. Speeding it up will guarantee that. Whether or not they support the death penalty, everyone should be concerned about a system that has led to the new national record for the most people released from Death Row due to evidence of innocence, some after 15 – 20 years. The Timely Justice Act now makes it lawful, but it is unethical, unconscionable, and unjust to speed up executions and restrict legal challenges in the state that sentences the nation’s highest number wrongfully convicted people to death.”
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Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty is a coalition of individuals and organizations united to abolish the death penalty in Florida.
If you would like more information or to schedule an interview, please contact Mark Elliott at 727-215-9646 or email

Mark Elliott
Executive Director

Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, FADP
P.O. Box 82943
Tampa, FL  33682

FADP is a coalition of individuals and organizations united to abolish the Death Penalty in Florida