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Florida's Timely Justice Act to Speed up Executions Becomes Law

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Posted: June 17, 2013   5:35 PM

On June 14, over the objections of the Innocence Project and many other outspoken critics of the legislation, Florida Governor Rick Scott signed the Timely Justice Act into law. The Act will require the governor to sign a death warrant within 30 days of a review of a capital conviction by the State Supreme Court. The state will be required to execute the defendant within 180 days of the warrant.
A recent Slate article by Emily Bazelon explains why the Timely Justice Act is so troubling:

Since the mid-1970s, the state has executed 77 people. Florida has also exonerated 24 people who’ve been sentenced to die—the most of any state. In other words, for every three inmates executed, one is set free.
What’s the problem in Florida—why do they convict and sentence to die so many innocent people? It’s the only state in the country in which a simple majority of the jury—a vote of 7 to 5—can send a man or woman to the electric chair or lethal injection. Every other state but one requires a unanimous vote. (The other exception to that rule, Alabama, requires 10 votes).

According to Bazelon, Florida houses 405 people on death row, and since Gov. Scott took office, the rate of executions has already increased.
One of Florida’s death row prisoners is Clemente Aguirre, who still fights for his exoneration in the 2006 murders of Cheryl Williams and Carol Bareis, a mother and daughter who were found stabbed to death in their trailer in Seminole County in 2004. New DNA testing reveals Aguirre’s innocence and points to a family member of the victims as the perpetrator. An evidentiary hearing on the new DNA evidence concluded in May, and the judge’s decision is expected soon.
Also exonerated through DNA testing from Florida’s death row was Frank Lee Smith who died of cancer in prison before his release. He was cleared by DNA testing obtained by the Innocence Project 11 months after his death. He had spent 14 years in prison for rape and murder he didn’t commit.
Read the full article.
Read other cases of people who were exonerated through DNA testing after being sentenced to death.

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