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Harvard Study Says Duval A Death Penalty Hot Spot

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A study by Harvard Law School’s Fair Punishment Project is pointing to Duval County as a national hot-spot for the death penalty.

A new study by Harvard researchers says Duval is one of only 16 counties in the country that imposed five or more death sentences in the past five years. 

Senior Research Fellow Robert Smith says that puts Duval in the same league with major urban areas like Los Angeles and Phoenix.

“When we started looking into the cases, what we found was this record of just overzealous prosecution.”

Sixteen death sentences were handed down in Duval in the past five years, according to the study, and nearly half of the cases involved defendants with serious mental impairment.

Smith says the study found another problem. He says public defenders weren’t taking much time to present mitigating evidence during the penalty phase of their clients’ trials.

A Miami native, former WFSU reporter Jim Ash is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years of experience, most of it in print. He has been a member of the Florida Capital Press Corps since 1992.