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Harvard Death Penalty Study Finds Four Florida Counties Are Outliers

Carol Highsmith via Wikimedia Commons

Harvard’s Fair Punishment Project is highlighting a number of counties that are outliers in terms of capital sentencing.  Four of those counties are in Florida.

Duval, Hillsborough, Pinellas and Miami-Dade are among the sixteen jurisdictions imposing five or more death sentences between 2010 and 2015.  Those sixteen counties make up just one half of one percent of counties in which the sentence is legal.  One of the study’s authors, Rob Smith, says overzealous prosecutors drive those cases.

“Miami, Duval, Hillsborough you just see this personality driven death penalty,” Smith says.  “A few overaggressive, overzealous prosecutors account for so much of the death penalty activity in these places.”

Earlier reporting from the Fair Punishment Project shed light on Duval County state prosecutor Angela Corey’s zealous pursuit of capital cases.  Corey lost her reelection bid earlier this year.

The study points out issues with racial bias and inadequate defense.   Authors also raise concerns about prosecutors ignoring factors like mental health that would otherwise leave defendants ineligible for the death penalty.