Well, the week is practically over and I’ve not had as much time for reading opinions as I like, but I came across an interesting article from the Palm Beach Post that I thought deserved mentioning. According to the report, Florida Senator Joe Negron is sponsoring the “Timely Justice Act of 2013″ in an effort to speed up the appeals process for death-row inmates. According to Negron, the bill is “designed to streamline litigation and cut out duplicate or baseless appeals filed by prisoners after the state Supreme Court has upheld a murder conviction and death sentence.”
Any Florida criminal attorney (whether you handle trials or appeals) knows that death row appeals can take years to conclude. And everyone who’s familiar with the system also knows there will always be baseless appeals filed by certain individuals. But in my view, to try to legislate the time for the appeals process seems misdirected. After all, we read stories every day about inmates who are exonerated after spending years on death row. Why cut off their time for appealing their conviction with another arbitrary deadline? Instead, the legislature should focus on other things of greater constitutional concern–for example, amending the death penalty statute to require a unanimous recommendation by the jury before the death penalty could be imposed. As noted in the Palm Beach Post report, Florida is the ONLY state that does not require a unanimous jury recommendation. Or perhaps the legislature could spend their time on something even more important, like repealing the death penalty altogether. Isn’t it time Florida joined the other civilized States in the U.S.?
You can view the text of the bill, and other information about the bill (SB 1750), here.