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Friday, September 29, 2023

Executions are slowing around the country, but leave it to Florida to stand out in the worst way.

Our lovely governor, Rick Scott, has executed more people in a single term than any other modern governor of Florida, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

Since 1976, Florida has ranked fourth in the country for the number of executions. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, Florida is leading the way in 2014 with three government-sanctioned murders under its belt — more than any other state.

“It’s a solemn duty to sign a death warrant,” Scott told the Sentinel. “People go through the process, and I do my job. That’s how it works.’’

Scott is so distraught about his “solemn duty” that he signed a bill into law last year making executions easier and faster. The Timely Justice Act is a unique bill that sets a 30-day deadline for the governor to sign a death warrant when an inmate’s appeal is final. Once the warrant is signed, the execution happens within 180 days.

He’s just doing his job. That’s how it works.

Florida is no stranger to absurdity, and this is no different. While the Sunshine State puts more people to death than almost every other state, more people are exonerated from death row than in any other state.

That means there have been more innocent people found on death row than in any other state.

So, for a quick recap: Execution rates are falling around the country, but in Florida, they’re increasing. Even though more people are exonerated from death row, we’re speeding up how fast people can be executed.

Translation: There’s less time for inmates to prove their innocence, making it easier for the state to kill them.

It’s already easier to put someone to death in Florida. It’s the only state that requires a simple jury majority to sentence someone to death. Every other state besides Alabama requires a unanimous vote.

And it keeps getting worse. According to Slate, State Supreme Court Justice Raoul Cantero has seen “some of the worst lawyering” in death penalty cases.

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One example is of Clemente Aguirre, an undocumented immigrant from Honduras who worked as a prep cook. He was accused of a brutal double murder after he discovered the bodies and didn’t call police. Of course, he didn’t call police because he feared deportation, but that was enough for a 7-5 vote from the jury sentencing him to death. His original lawyer didn’t investigate much or ask for DNA testing. With a new confession being presented as evidence and a DNA test proving he wasn’t the killer, he’s waiting on a new ruling to absolve him.

The death penalty is wrong, plus it’s applied inconsistently. There are wrongful convictions, and there are botched executions. It doesn’t act as a deterrent to violent crime, either. The 2011 FBI Uniform Crime Report found the highest murder rate to be in the South, with more than 80 percent of executions taking place in the region.

There are still 32 states where capital punishment is legal, but some exercise the death penalty more than others. California and Florida combined accounted for half of all executions in 2013, according to the Sentinel.

Remember that come election time, the blood is on Scott’s hands. He has done nothing to stop the Timely Justice Act. What he has done is execute more Floridians than any governor in recent history. But we can’t blame him.

He’s just doing his job. That’s how it works.

[Justin Jones is a UF journalism senior. His column appears on Thursdays. A version of this column ran on page 6 on 3/20/2014 under the headline "Executions leave blood on Scott’s hands"]

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