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The “Let’s Kill As Many Innocent People As Possible” Act

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Emily Bazelon has an excellent piece on legislation in Florida that would require executions to happen 180 days after a single round of appeals by federal and state courts and a pass through the governor’s rubber stamp. What could possibly go wrong?

This is a particularly troubling plan given the circumstances in Florida. 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).

Another huge problem in Florida: the low quality of defense lawyers, especially at trial. Florida Supreme Court Justice Raoul Cantero has said that “some of the worst lawyering” he has ever seen has been in death penalty cases, where some counsel “have little or no experience.” In 2006, the American Bar Association reviewed Florida’s death penalty system, questioned its fairness and accuracy, and made 11 recommendations for reform. The Florida Supreme Court and the Florida bar have also urged a comprehensive review. None of this has happened, as Andrew Cohen points out in the Atlantic.

Apparently, they looked at Texas and felt that its executions of innocent people don’t happen frequently enough.

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