Amos King Clemency Letter, EXECUTION STAYED JANUARY 2002
BY FAX: 850-487-0801
January 23, 2002
The Honorable John Ellis (Jeb) Bush
Governor of the State of Florida
Tallahassee, FL 32399-0001
On behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union, we urge you to stay the execution of Amos King, which is currently scheduled for January 24, 2002. Such extraordinary relief is merited by the circumstances of Mr. King's case.
In 1977, Mr. King was convicted of murder with sexual battery, burglary and arson. The conviction was based entirely on circumstantial evidence, including the matching of Mr. King's blood type with that found on the victim. The blood test available at that time merely indicated that the perpetrator was of the same blood type as Mr. King, thus narrowing down the suspect to a male in a large segment of the population. The blood samples have since been destroyed or lost by the State, although there is no clear record of their location. At sentencing, the jury recommended that death be imposed and the trial judge so sentenced Mr. King.
During almost 25 years since conviction, Mr. King has consistently maintained his innocence. The defense, however, no longer has access to the evidence that could conclusively prove Mr. King's innocence through DNA testing. The Florida statute mandating DNA testing in such cases recently adopted with your support underscores the importance the State places on assuring the guilt of death penalty defendants. During the past decade, as DNA testing is becoming more available, 100 people have been released, including several who came within days of execution. Thus, absent direct evidence of Mr. King's guilt, the State must refrain from carrying out the irreversible measure of capital punishment in a case fraught with doubt.
Further, in the current term, the Supreme Court of the United States will consider whether it is constitutional for a judge to make the decision to impose a death sentence upon a jury recommendation in Ring v. Arizona. The Arizona statute considered in that case is similar to the relevant Florida statue in that it allows the trial judge to impose the death penalty upon jury recommendation without a requirement that the jury sentence the accused. The very fact that the US Supreme Court accepted that case casts doubts on the constitutionality of such sentencing procedures. The disposition of that case directly impacts Mr. King. It is, therefore, only responsible that Mr. King's execution, at a minimum, be postponed until after a decision in Ring v. Arizona is handed down.
The ACLU opposes capital punishment in all cases as a barbarous anachronism and in violation of the U.S. Constitution. In Mr. King's case, in particular, we respectfully urge you to commute Mr. King's sentence to life in prison, to avoid the chance of executing an innocent man; or, at a minimum, to stay his execution until the decision in Ring v. Arizona.
Director, ACLU Capitlal Punishment Project
Executive Director, ACLU of Florida
Pro Bono Counsel
quire, Sanders & Dempsey L.L.P.
1201 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W.
Washington, DC 20004