Saturday, September 30, 2006

Florida Death Penalty and Politics

10. Politics

56. Undoubtedly politics is a factor that causes arbitrariness in Florida=s death penalty scheme.

In fact, the state assessment team noted that judicial elections and appointments are influenced by consideration of judicial nominees= or candidates views on the death penalty. ABA Report at xxxi. The team also cited the Florida Supreme Court=s recent quantitative approach to proportionality review, which has been caused by political pressures and the change of composition of the Court. Id at 213.

57. Certainly, nothing could be clearer in Mr. Rutherford=s case, where the timing of his death warrant was controlled by a gubernatorial candidate, who is currently the Attorney General of Florida, Charles Crist. Under Florida law when a stay of execution is issued incident to an appeal, Aupon certification by the Attorney General that the stay has been lifted or dissolved, within 10 days after such certification, the Governor must set the new date for execution of the death sentence.@ Sec. 922.06, Fla. Stat (2005).

In the recent case of Clarence Hill, Attorney General Charlie Crist waited until August 24, 2006, to notify the Governor that the United States Supreme Court=s stay of Mr. Hill=s execution had dissolved. This was a little less than two weeks before the contested primary election in which Mr. Crist was seeking the Republican nomination for governor however, and nearly two months after the stay had actually dissolved. Attorney General Crist and his representatives claimed that because Mr. Hill had nothing pending in court the statute was invoked; yet, his case was in fact pending in the Eleventh Circuit awaiting action by that court following the remand from the United States Supreme Court.

58. Now, only weeks away from the general election, Attorney General Crist has notified Governor Bush that Mr. Rutherford=s stay has likewise dissolved. And, Mr. Rutherford=s execution has been scheduled for just weeks before the election.

Contrary to Attorney General Crist=s contention that Mr. Hill had nothing pending, thus, he invoked the statute, Mr. Rutherford does have briefs pending before the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals.

59. Florida=s death penalty scheme is infected by politics and decisions made for political gain rather than in fairness.

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