MIAMI (CBSMiami) – In the final days of the legislative session, the Florida legislature passed a bill which limits the appeals and speeds up the execution process of those on death row.
On Wednesday, at an event sponsored by the American Civil Liberties Union, two former Death Row inmates who were later exonerated plan to publicly ask for a meeting with Governor Rick Scott to urge him not to sign the measure.
HB 7083, the so-called “Timely Justice Act” limits appeals and requires that when these limited and shortened appeals are exhausted, “Within 30 days after receiving the letter of certification from the clerk of the Florida Supreme Court, the Governor shall issue a warrant for execution if the executive clemency process has concluded, directing the warden to execute the sentence within 180 days, at a time designated in the warrant.”
For Seth Penalver, had the bill been law, he would have been executed despite that fact that he was innocent.
Penalver was imprisoned for 18 years and under a death sentence for 13 years. After 18 years was evidence uncovered that led to his exoneration.
“If Governor Scott would just sit with me and others like me, I know he will veto this bill that, if it had been law, would have ended my life – I am innocent,” said Penalver in a statement. “If he signs this bill into law, I fear other people who are innocent like me, will be unjustly executed by the State of Florida.”
Also asking for a meeting with the governor is Herman Lindsey who was exonerated after 3 years on Death Row.
Juan Melendez was on Florida’s Death Row for almost 18 years for a crime he did not commit. A “lost” confession by the real perpetrator, which was in the possession of the prosecution, was presented some 16 years after his conviction. Melendez was exonerated and freed.
“Under the Timely Justice Act, innocent men like me would have been executed,” said Melendez. “No one knows how many more innocent people are now awaiting execution on Florida’s Death Row – and will be executed, if the Legislature places limits on their appeals.”
Florida has the highest rate of people condemned to death and later exonerated, according to the ACLU. Twenty four innocent men were released, 8 of them after 10 years of life on Death Row. Had this bill been in place during their stay, they may have been wrongfully executed.
Scott has fifteen days to act on this bill.
“A veto of this bill does not abolish the death penalty; but a veto will hopefully reduce the chance that Florida executes innocent people. I was a supporter of the death penalty,” says Penalver. “Until I saw so many others like me, innocent on death row, who only wanted another chance to prove their innocence and ask the state to consider new evidence.”
In 2012 Florida led the nation in new death sentences and death row exonerations, according to the ACLU.