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Exonerated Death Row Inmates Urge Gov To Veto Timely Justice Bill

Following the execution of Elmer Carroll, anti-death penalty protesters are urging the governor to veto a bill that would speed the process up in Florida. Two exonerated death row inmates joined the group at the Capitol Thursday.

Sheila Meehan with Tallahassee Citizens against the death penalty said capital punishment doesn’t allow for the possibility that people change.

“We are not saying that everyone on death row is innocent. Certainly there are people who are innocent and the 24 exonorees are evidence of that. But, even for the people who are guilty of their crimes, I think there is no possibility of expressing remorse, to perhaps make some kind of a contribution to society or to show that they’ve become changed in some way.”

While Meehan and the other protesters would like to see the state get rid of the death penalty all together, they’re setting their sights a little lower on this day. Two exonerated death row inmates joined the group to deliver a letter to Governor Rick Scott asking him to veto a bill that would speed up the death penalty process.

“My thing is I would just ask him to please reconsider the Timely Justice Act and let the course keep as is. Because, as it stands today we have 24 exonorees in the state of Florida," said Seth Penalver.

Penalver is  the 24th person to be exonerated and he said if the Timely Justice Act had been in effect before, he worries that by the time officials found evidence to exonerate him, it could have been too late.

“It was found about the 17 year mark. So, if this bill was actually in effect during the time of my being on death row, I probably wouldn’t be here with you at all,”  Penalver said.

Penalver spent some 18 years behind bars, about 6 of those years were on death row. Right now, about 40-percent of the state’s prisoners on death row have been there for  20 or more years – some as many as 30.  The bill in question would require the governor to sign a death warrant within 30 days after all appeals have been exhausted. Supporters of the bill say the measure will stop prisoners from filing so called “motions to delay,” but it won’t prevent them from filing legal challenges in an attempt to prove their innocence. But Penalver said there’s no telling when evidence that could help a person prove their innocence might show up.

Governor Rick Scott has until the middle of June to take action on the measure.