Saturday, September 30, 2006

Killer claims state's death penalty flawed

Published - September, 29, 2006

Killer claims state's death penalty flawed

Paul Flemming
News Journal capital bureau

- Condemned killer A.D. Rutherford has filed an appeal in Santa Rosa County circuit court asking that his conviction be set aside, saying Florida's death sentence process is not fair and consistent.

Rutherford's lawyers argue, among other things, that Florida's death penalty is arbitrary and capricious -- and thus unconstitutional -- on the basis of a recent report that was sharply critical of the state's judicial process.Rutherford was sentenced to death for the 1985 death of Stella Salamon, a 63-year-old murdered in her Milton home.

Rutherford, whose execution is set for Oct. 18, bases his appeal on the new report by the American Bar Association that Florida's system has serious flaws.

"The information, analysis and ultimate conclusions contained in the ABA report make clear: Florida's death penalty system is so seriously flawed and broken that it does not meet the constitutional requisite of being fair, reliable or accurate," Rutherford's motion states.

Martin McClain, one of Rutherford's lawyers, said the report describes a system that does not meet the standards the U.S. Supreme Court established more than three decades ago, requiring that "the death penalty must be imposed fairly, and with reasonable consistency, or not at all."

Mark Schlakman, program director of Florida State University's Center for the advancement of Human Rights and one of the eight members of the assessment team that researched and produced the ABA report, said it's inappropriate for him to comment on the use of the report in Rutherford's motion.

He did say, however, that the report does not call for a moratorium on executions.

The eight members of the team included opponents and proponents of the death penalty.

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