Monday, October 16, 2006

A product of an arbitrary and capricious system - Arthur Rutherford

The report indicates that there are a number of the areas in which Florida`s
death penalty system falls short in the effort to afford every capital defendant fair and
accurate procedures@. ABA Report on Florida at iii.

In the report, recommendations
were made to assist Florida in fixing a broken system. But, the report cautions that the
apparent harms in the system Aare cumulative@ and must be considered in such a way;
problems in one area can undermine sound procedures in others.@ Id. at iii-iv.

A review
of the areas identified in the report as falling short makes apparent that in Florida=s
death penalty scheme is deficient for the many of the same reasons the schemes at
issue in Furman were found to be unconstitutional.

For example, the various opinions written in Furman noted the same evidence
of arbitrary factors unrelated to the crime or the defendant=s character that were at work
in the sentencing process that is set forth in the ABA Report on Florida. Furman, 408
U.S. at 256 n. 21 (whether counsel timely objected to error was on occasion a decisive,
albeit arbitrary factor in whether a death sentence was imposed); Id. at 290 (the manner
in which retroactivity rules operate injected arbitrariness); Id. at 293, 309-10, 313 (the
number of executions in comparison to the number of murders suggested a lottery); Id.
at 364-66 (evidence that racial prejudices and/or classism and/or sexism infected
sentencing decisions); Id. at 366-67 (likelihood that an innocent may be executed
suggested arbitrariness); Id. at 368 n. 158 (the failure to apply scientific developments
in criminal cases fast enough to enhance reliability of outcome of process created
arbitrary results).

Based on the information contained in the report, it is clear that death sentences,
like Mr. Rutherfords, are a product of an arbitrary and capricious system. `

Who is executed in Florida is determined by a myriad of factors unrelated to the facts of the
crime or the character of the defendant.