Blog of Rights

Kill, Kill, and Kill Again: Rushing to Execution Heightens Risks of Fatal Error in Florida

By Tanya Greene, Advocacy and Policy Counsel, ACLU at 12:20pm

Florida will start this long, hot summer with a bang. The state has announced that in the coming months it intends to strap three separate men down, open their veins, paralyze them, and force deadly chemicals into their hearts until they die.

The men on Florida's current kill list are Elmer Carroll, scheduled to die on May 29th; William Van Poyk, scheduled to die on June 12th; and Marshal Gore, scheduled to die on June 24th.

Our hearts go out to the innocent victims. And certainly, before extinguishing these men's lives, you would think Florida would want to be sure that these men are not innocent as well.

If new legislation passed by the state's legislature is any indication, you would be wrong. The Timely Justice Act will speed up executions, leaving limited time to ascertain if the wrong man is to be executed.

Rushing to execution in Florida seems awfully dangerous, given the deeply troubling history of innocent people suffering for years on Florida's death row. Florida has already released 24 – TWENTY-FOUR – confirmed INNOCENT DEATH ROW prisoners. (It is important to yell, so we do not get numb to the reality that innocent people are put on death row and face certain death every year).

The risk of killing the innocent really must give us pause as a nation, as a society. It should terrify us that the Governor of Florida, who had a hand in crafting the Timely Justice Act legislation, is poised to sign it very soon.

We have had decades and decades of state-sponsored killing to teach people that killing is wrong and it is not working. Murder rates remain highest in active death penalty jurisdictions. This fact, alongside the risk of executing innocent people, should motivate all of us to fight the Timely Justice Act before it is signed into law.

Seth Penalver, the most recent Florida death row exoneree, and Herman Lindsey, a Florida exoneree released in 2009, want to meet with Governor Scott to discuss these issues before the bill becomes law.

At the very least, the Governor should take this meeting. But what the people of Florida truly deserve is for Governor Scott to veto the Timely Justice Act. A broken justice system should not rush to execution, especially when questions about innocence remain.

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