Thursday, February 22, 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Five states have repealed or put a moratorium on executions.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: They value guns, not kids

Editorial: They value guns, not kids

They value guns over kidsSix days after 17 were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High by a teen-ager firing an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, the Florida House refused to even debate a bill banning the sale of assault weapons. The vote, 71 to 36, wasn...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Editorial: Listen to Marjory Stoneman Douglas students demanding change

Editorial: Listen to Marjory Stoneman Douglas students demanding change

Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are traveling to the state capital today and declaring "never again.íí A prominent Florida Republican fundraiser vows he wonít raise another nickel until his party approves new gun controls. Across F...
Published: 02/19/18

Editorial: No more doubt about Russian meddling in election

The latest indictment by the Justice Department special counsel, Robert Mueller, refutes President Donald Trumpís claims that Russian interference in the 2016 election was a Democratic hoax. The indictment details the lengths Russian conspirators too...
Published: 02/19/18

Another voice: Tips should belong to workers, not their bosses

The Trump administration is under fire for proposing a Labor Department regulation that could result in hotel and restaurant employers dipping into the tips customers leave for their employees, depriving the nationís 14 million hard-working restauran...
Published: 02/18/18
Updated: 02/20/18
Editorial: Trumpís rising deficits and misplaced priorities

Editorial: Trumpís rising deficits and misplaced priorities

Itís not popular in Washington or virtually anywhere else these days to express concern about the rising federal deficit. Congressional Republicans who used to be deficit hawks first voted to cut taxes by $1.5 trillion over the next decade, then rais...
Published: 02/17/18
Editorial: Buckhorn should not appeal verdict in firefighterís case

Editorial: Buckhorn should not appeal verdict in firefighterís case

The city of Tampa should have taken Tanja Vidovic seriously from the start when the Tampa firefighter complained about her treatment in the workplace. Now that a jury and judge have spoken, itís time for City Hall to cut its losses, learn from its mi...
Published: 02/15/18
Updated: 02/16/18
Editorial: CareerSource troubles mount as public trust drops

Editorial: CareerSource troubles mount as public trust drops

The dark cloud enveloping Tampa Bayís job placement centers keeps growing. There are accusations of forged documents, evidence of nepotism and concerns about grossly inflated performance numbers that could be tied to receiving more public money and b...
Published: 02/15/18
Updated: 02/16/18
Editorials: Prayers and platitudes after shootings arenít enough

Editorials: Prayers and platitudes after shootings arenít enough

Even before the victims of another mass shooting at another public school were identified, Gov. Rick Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi, state legislators and members of Congress rushed to South Florida or to social media to offer their thoughts and p...
Published: 02/15/18
Editorial: DCF review should get to the bottom of Hillsborough foster care issues

Editorial: DCF review should get to the bottom of Hillsborough foster care issues

The Florida Department of Children and Families is right to call for a timely and "comprehensive" review of Hillsborough Countyís foster care system. Though the probe is a reaction to a recent case involving a child who was left unattended, the revie...
Published: 02/14/18

A Washington Post editorial: Modernize 911 calling before it becomes an emergency

This Friday marks the 50th anniversary of the first 911 emergency call placed in the United States. Since then, uncounted lives have been saved and people helped. It has been a great accomplishment of government.But even as an estimated 240 million 9...
Published: 02/13/18
Updated: 02/14/18