Speed Kills

Although Florida makes more death row mistakes than any other state, Governor Rick Scott is signing more death warrants and he's considering a bill that would shorten appeals (Photo Credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images).

Florida Governor Rick Scott (Photo Credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images).

Is Governor Rick Scott of Florida trying to speed up his state’s death penalty? He’s signing more death warrants (three executions are currently scheduled over the next month), and he’s considering a bill passed by the legislature that would shorten appeals.

He of course can, and should, veto this bill – known euphemistically as the “Timely Justice Act” – and we should all urge him to do so.

Florida has the nation’s most error-prone death penalty, having seen more death row inmates exonerated (24) than any other state. And it’s possible that a 25th is on the way. With 75 executions since its death penalty was reinstated, Florida has set free one person from death row for every three that have been executed.

The national rate, still appallingly high, is about one for ten. Which, not coincidentally, is the name of an important film project whose organizers have been crisscrossing the country interviewing death row exonerees.

Their most recent interview was with Florida exoneree Juan Melendez, who spent nearly 18 years on the Sunshine State’s death row. In the petition linked to above Juan writes that:


Justice for Everyone

It’s just after 5 am and I’m in line with the first 20 people waiting for a coveted seat in the courthouse for Troy Davis’ evidentiary hearing.  Reporters, supporters of Troy Davis, and supporters of Mark MacPhail, the victim in this tragic case, are all jumbled together.

Last night we gathered in the Davis family’s church for a vigil. Two death row exonerees spoke, including Juan Melendez.  He was on death row in Florida 17 years for a crime he didn’t commit. He shared a piece of that story and encouraged the Davis family and supporters to stay strong.  Larry Cox, AIUSA’s executive director gave an impassioned speech. He told the crowd that it was time for the characterization of this as a duel between Davis and MacPhail to end.

“How can you be for justice for one person and not be for justice for everyone?’” he asked.

Juan Melendez speaks in Savannah, June 22 - (c) Scott Langley

Larry Cox, AIUSA Executive Director, speaks in Savannah, June 22 - (c) Scott Langley

The Rev. Dr. Raphael Gamaliel Warnock of Ebenezer Baptist Church (Dr. King’s church in Atlanta) described the struggle for Troy as one for “the soul of this country.”  And he recalled the key moments when “God pressed the pause button” in Troy’s case, with one stay of execution after another.

It was a moving night. And I was once again humbled to be part of this growing movement and to experience the many miracles along the way.

We now await the first day of the hearing with much hope and anticipation. We don’t know how it will go, but we are grateful for the breakthrough that the U.S. Supreme Court created by ordering this hearing last year and we will remain watchful while the process unfolds.