The “Timely Justice Act” Upheld: Opponents Call the Act the Death Penalty Fast Track
Florida’s death penalty laws have been the subject of controversy and debate. Florida is touted as having one of the highest death penalty rates in the country, largely due to the current death penalty system in place. The death sentence in Florida is invoked more easily than in any other state.
Death Penalty Jury Vote Standard
In almost all states nationwide, the jury must unanimously vote for the death penalty sentence. However, in Florida, jurors may invoke the death penalty with a majority vote. The majority vote standard and the correlation with the increasingly large number of death penalty inmates can be seen in the numbers. Since 2013, Florida has led the nation with the most number of death row exonerations with 24 exonerations in 40 years. However, the state has executed, during that period, about 76 inmates, thus showing that ratio between those executed and those exonerated is more or less 3 to 1.
What is the “Timely Justice Act”?
These numbers are only going to grow with the June 2014 Florida Supreme Court’s recent case upholding the Timely Justice Act, a bill that was signed into law by Governor Scott in 2013. The Timely Justice Act has been referred to as the death penalty “fast track” policy, due to the nature of the bill. The bill requires the governor to sign a death warrant for a convicted death penalty inmate within 30 days after all appeals have been concluded, and requires within 180 days that the lethal injection be administered. Upon coming into effect in 2013, around 100 death row inmates were affected by this new measure.
Arguments For and Against the Act
In June 2014, the Florida Supreme Court reviewed the “Timely Justice Act” under the premise that the Act was an unconstitutional infringement on the separation of powers and a violation of due process and equal protection rights. Attorneys for at least 30 death row inmates challenged the bill, stating it was an infringement, more specifically, on the clemency process, which was controlled entirely by the executive, and that it was a violation of due process rights because deadlines would be imposed that could affect any post-conviction claims that could affect the status of the death penalty inmate.
The Court’s Ruling on the “Timely Justice Act”
The Court, however, rejected these arguments, responding in their unanimous decision that even after the death warrant is signed, the Court would still have the power to stay execution if there was a meritorious post-conviction claim needing to be investigated. They also added that the clemency process would not be affected because it would be up to the executive branch to conclude that the clemency period had ended and that the death warrant should be signed. The Court also asserted that due process rights would not be affected because the death warrants would be signed after all appeals processes on both the federal and state level would be finished.
Though the Florida Supreme Court has ruled and upheld the Timely Justice Act, the controversy and debate will not be affected and opponents to the Timely Justice Act and the death penalty will continue to advocate for the abolishment of these laws. It will be seen in the future if timely justice really ever comes through for those waiting on death row.
Criminal Defense Attorney in Fort Lauderdale
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