MIAMI — Two former death row inmates who have since been exonerated urged Florida Gov. Rick Scott on Wednesday to veto legislation that would expedite the state's capital punishment process, worrying it will condemn some innocent men to death.
"If (this bill) had been law, it would have ended my life. I am innocent," said Seth Penalver, who was exonerated after 18 years in prison.
Penalver and Herman Lindsey, who was freed after three years on death row, pleaded with the Republican governor to grant a meeting, saying at least 13 people currently on death row have exhausted their post-conviction appeals and gone through the clemency process. They fear that if Scott signs the Timely Justice Act, the governor could be putting innocent inmates to death without ample time and adequate assurance that they truly are guilty. The two appeared at a news conference Wednesday.
The bill, which was recently passed by the Republican-led Legislature, minimizes the time between sentencing and execution by creating tighter time frames for appeals and post-conviction motions and by imposing reporting requirements on case progress. The measure also re-establishes a separate agency for North Florida to provide appellate-level legal representation to inmates sentenced to death, and requires them to "pursue all possible remedies in state court."
It would also require a governor to sign a death warrant within 30 days of a state Supreme Court review of a capital conviction. The state would be required to execute the defendant within 180 days of the warrant.
Florida has exonerated 24 men on death row since 1973, more than any other state, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.
Critics worry that DNA evidence might be introduced later that proves a condemned prisoner's innocence.
"You're willing to sign a bill for the death warrants, but you're not willing to take a look at what is really happening," Lindsey said, referring to Scott.