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:
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Today, Congress again failed to uphold the U.S. government’s obligation to respect, protect and fulfill human rights. It passed the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) with provisions that would gravely hinder the effort to close Guantanamo prison, and would further entrench indefinite detention.
This is unacceptable, morally and legally. And it’s a reason why Amnesty International and 28 other human rights, religious and civil liberties organizations sent a letter calling on President Obama to veto the NDAA.
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I am extremely disappointed that Governor M. Jodi Rell today vetoed HB 6578, which would have abolished the death penalty in Connecticut.
Governor Rell’s veto of this legislation represents a missed opportunity for the state of Connecticut to extricate itself from the useless and costly boondoggle that is capital punishment. Any other policy that wasted valuable taxpayer dollars without reducing crime or making anyone safer would have been eliminated without hesitation.
No system can be perfected enough to prevent the innocent from being sent to death row. Recent cases have demonstrated the fallibility of Connecticut’s justice system. In the last two years James Tillman, who was given 45 years for rape, and Miguel Roman, who was sentenced to 60 years for murder, were found to be have been wrongfully convicted. The exonerations of these innocent men ought to make Governor Rell realize that the irreversible punishment of death has no place in a system that makes such mistakes.
This veto puts Connecticut squarely on the wrong side of history. The use of the death penalty is dropping in every state of the union, as juries pass fewer death sentences and state legislatures impose greater restrictions. Some, such as New Mexico, repeal capital punishment altogether. An average of three countries end the use of the death penalty each year, and today more than two-thirds of nations worldwide have abolished the death penalty in law or practice.
The death penalty is increasingly being acknowledged as a severe violation of human rights. While, as the governor has argued, heinous crimes have been committed in Connecticut, the deliberate killing of a human being is never an appropriate punishment for any crime. It is inevitable that the world will eventually outlaw this cruel practice, and it is a shame that Connecticut will not pave the way to make that happen.