Tuesday, April 24, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Recklessly speeding to execute

Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Legislature are speeding up executions in an era when other states are slowing them down or repealing the death penalty. The legislation that Scott signed into law Friday puts him on track to be the most active executioner in modern Florida history, in a state that has had more exonerations off death row than any other in the country. The only backstop now is if Scott uses his executive clemency powers to try to avoid future injustices.

The new law addresses a nonexistent problem. The death penalty has had support from governors across party lines. Both Democrats and Republicans have ordered executions, but they were able to do so on a timetable that reflected the unique circumstances of each case. The new law strips away a governor's discretion, requiring him to sign a death warrant within 30 days after the inmate has exhausted his appeals and the executive clemency process is complete. The only bright spot is that some flexibility is retained by the governor since only he can order a clemency review. Scott's general counsel, Pete Antonacci, urged the addition of the clemency provision, a step that adds a safeguard from reckless speed.

No one has a clear picture of whether there are innocent people among the 405 people on Florida's death row, but the state has exonerated 24 prisoners off death row in the last decade — more than any other state. Frank Lee Smith died of cancer on Florida's death row in 2000 after spending 14 years there. A posthumous DNA test found that he had been innocent of the crime and identified the real murderer.

Smith's story and those of other exonerated Florida inmates — some who waited decades before their innocence was proved — are not a concern of Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, the measure's sponsor in the House. He called critics of his fast-track executions "anti-death penalty zealots," essentially denying that the criminal justice system is fallible.

Five states have repealed or put a moratorium on executions. Meanwhile, Florida lawmakers again rejected an attempt to bring Florida in line with all but one other state by requiring some form of unanimity by jurors before a death sentence can be recommended.

The new law sets the state up for a significant number of executions in the near term. There are at least 13 inmates on death row who have exhausted their appeals and are under clemency review. That means Scott is on track to put 21 people to death during a four-year term as governor. Jeb Bush, the only other modern governor to execute that many people, had 21 death row inmates executed over an eight-year period.

The Florida Supreme Court ordered a comprehensive review of the state's post-conviction death penalty process that is under way. It would have been far more responsible to wait for those conclusions than to recklessly speed up the process with so little concern about executing the wrong person.

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Editorial: As USFSP consolidation task force meets, openness and collaboration are key

Editorial: As USFSP consolidation task force meets, openness and collaboration are key

Writing a new law that phases out separate accreditation for the University of South Florida St. Petersburg and folds it back into the major research university was the easy part. The hard work starts today when a new consolidation task force holds i...
Updated: 9 hours ago

Correction

CorrectionCircuit Judge John Stargel of Lakeland is a member of the Florida Constitution Revision Commission who voted against a proposed amendment that would have stopped write-in candidates from closing primary elections. An editorial Saturday inco...
Published: 04/23/18
Editorial: Pruitt sets new low for ethics at EPA

Editorial: Pruitt sets new low for ethics at EPA

Not too many people took then-candidate Donald Trump seriously when he famously campaigned to "drain the swamp" as president. But that shouldn’t give this administration a free pass to excuse the behavior of Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Env...
Published: 04/22/18
Updated: 04/23/18
Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Allegiant Air’s safety record remains troubling, and the Federal Aviation Administration’s reluctance to talk about it is no more encouraging. Those are the key takeaways from a 60 Minutes report on the low-cost carrier’s high rate of mid-flight brea...
Published: 04/21/18

Editorial: Women’s work undervalued in bay area

Even a strong economy and low unemployment cannot overcome the persistent pay gap affecting full-time working women in Florida. A new report shows women in Florida earned 12.5 percent less on average than their male counterparts, and the disparities ...
Published: 04/21/18
Editorial: Florida’s death penalty fading away on its own

Editorial: Florida’s death penalty fading away on its own

Florida lawmakers may never take the death penalty off the books, but stronger forces are steadily eroding this inhumane, outdated tool of injustice. Court rulings, subsequent changes to law and waning public support have significantly suppressed the...
Published: 04/20/18
Updated: 04/24/18

Editorial: A missed chance for open primary elections

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission did a lot of things wrong this week by combining unrelated or unpalatable provisions into single amendments that will appear on the November ballot. It also wasted an opportunity to do one thing right. The...
Published: 04/20/18
Updated: 04/23/18
Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

For all the symbolism, Raul Castro’s handoff of the Cuban presidency this week amounts to less than meets the eye even if his handpicked successor, the Communist Party functionary Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez, is the first person not named Castro to le...
Published: 04/20/18
Editorial: When they visit Nature’s Classroom, kids are right where they belong

Editorial: When they visit Nature’s Classroom, kids are right where they belong

The Hillsborough school district planted a fruitful seed with the opening of Nature’s Classroom five decades ago on the cypress-lined banks of the Hillsborough River northeast of Tampa. • The lessons taught there to some 17,000 sixth graders each yea...
Published: 04/20/18

Editorial: Equality pays off on Southwest Flight 1380

The passengers of Southwest Flight 1380 can be thankful that, 33 years ago, the U.S. Navy took the lead on equal opportunity.Capt. Tammie Jo Shults was piloting the flight from New York to Dallas on Tuesday when an engine exploded, blowing out a wind...
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/20/18