Target: Florida Governor Rick Scott
Goal: Protect Floridians from wrongful executions
The Florida Assembly recently passed a bill that would expedite the death penalty process. The bill now awaits Governor Rick Scott’s signature. If signed into law, the bill would result in a greater number of executions, including the executions of individuals who could potentially be exonerated. Governor Scott must know that this bill in unacceptable.
Florida has the second highest number of death row inmates in the nation, and the fourth most executions since 1976. Florida also has the highest wrongful conviction rate in death penalty cases in the entire nation. Expediting the process would mean that even more people would suffer death for crimes they did not commit.
Capital punishment has been abolished in all but 58 of the nearly 200 sovereign nations in the world, including the entirety of the European Union, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and Mexico. This is for good reason. No human system of justice is perfect. There will always be erroneous convictions, but the death penalty means that a mistaken conviction cannot be undone. The death penalty also precludes rehabilitation, and leads criminals to believe, since they’re already facing death for their crimes, that they have nothing to lose and might as well commit more. Nations which have abolished the death penalty have not seen increases in crime, but reductions.
Beyond the morality or even utility of the death penalty in the abstract, in the United States, the death penalty is administered unjustly. Race and wealth are the most important factors in determining whether a defendant charged with a capital offense will receive a death sentence. Since Professor Baldus’ famous study published in 1983, dozens of studies by respected legal and academic institutions have shown the same thing: the accused murderers of white victims are more likely to receive the death penalty, especially if they are black, and the accused murderers of black victims are less likely to receive the death penalty, especially if they are white. In addition to race, the quality of one’s defense attorney is the next most critical factor, and one that depends entirely on the defendant’s finances. While a completely guilty rich person with a team of top lawyers can get life with parole, an innocent poor person with an overworked public defender all too often ends up on death row. As Supreme Court Justice Ginsberg once stated: “I have yet to see a death case among the dozen coming to the Supreme Court on eve-of-execution stay applications in which the defendant was well represented at trial… People who are well represented at trial do not get the death penalty.”
The death penalty is an unusual and cruel punishment for anyone, even the guilty. For the innocent, it is a grave and irreparable injustice. Please add your name to this petition and urge Governor Scott to veto this bill.
Dear Governor Scott,
The State Assembly has sent a bill to that would greatly increase the speed of executions. The bill would lead to an intolerable injustice, as untold numbers of wrongly convicted innocents would be sent to their deaths before they could be exonerated. I urge you to veto this bill.
Florida has the second largest death row populations in the nation, and the highest rate of erroneous capital convictions. Expediting the process would not ensure the swifter of administration of justice, but rather, it would result in even more innocent men and women put to death before they could be exonerated.
The United States is an oddity among developed nations for its use of the death penalty. Of the nearly 200 sovereign nations on this planet, most have abolished it completely, and almost all the others have limited it to extreme circumstances. Of the fifty eight nations still practicing capital punishment, the US finds itself in the company of nations such as Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Iran, the People’s Republic of China, Belarus, Sudan, and North Korea. You may note that those nations are not renowned for their respect for human rights.
The practice of capital punishment has been denounced by legal scholars, human rights activists, and religious leaders of all denominations and political leanings. From Pope Francis the First to the Dalai Lama, the death penalty has been decried as a violation of human dignity, and an absolute dismissal of the ability of a human being to reform. Beyond moral opposition to the in the abstract, our use of capital punishment in our nation is inherently unjust in practice. Race and wealth determine whether a defendant charged with a capital offense receives the death penalty to such a degree as to call the practice into disrepute.
We cannot as a nation hold ourselves out as an exemplar of liberty and the rule of law when we expedite an already inherently unjust practice. Please side with justice and veto this bill.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore via Flickr