State News
5:09 pm
Mon October 7, 2013

Death Penalty Expert: Timely Justice Act Isn't Working As Intended

Florida execution chamber
Florida execution chamber
Credit Florida Department of Corrections

A list of so-called “warrant-ready” death row inmates has been delivered to Florida Gov. Rick Scott as required by the state’s Timely Justice Act. Although the list comprises a third of all death row inmates, one capital punishment expert says they would have been eligible even without the new law. That brings the law’s efficacy into question.

As required by the law, Gov. Scott Friday received a list of 132 death row convicts. The Florida Legislature enacted the Timely Justice Act this year with sponsors saying it would cut down on frivolous appeals and move people through the capital punishment process more quickly. Protesters said it would create a flurry of new death warrants and could lead to innocent people being denied the chance to prove it. But the law does not require the governor to act more quickly.

Mark Schlakman, of Florida State University Center for the Advancement of Human Rights, says, “The governor decides when clemency can be denied.”

He says, that means the law’s sponsors are not seeing their goal of getting warrants signed more quickly achieved.

“And the Timely Justice Act would have essentially little-to-no impact on that whatsoever," he says.

Schlakman, who conducted clemency reviews under former Gov. Lawton Chiles, calls the Timely Justice Act a “distraction” and says lawmakers should instead review the fairness of the state’s clemency system.