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Those Wrongfully Convicted Speak Out Against Faster Death Penalty Appeals


Unfortunately, Florida leads the country in wrongful death penalty convictions. According to some sources, close to 30 people have been exonerated from death row due to DNA evidence, prosecutorial misconduct, and other new evidence. In addition, five years ago, the governor signed a requirement that executions be hastened, occurring in 180 days.

Now, some states are awaiting decisions from U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions on whether their state appellate systems are competent enough to limit death penalty appeals in federal court as well. If this is approved by Sessions, the time that inmates have to file petitions in federal court after their state appeals would be cut in half, and the federal courts would have deadlines on when to rule on the claims and what the scope of claims that could be considered.

Innocent People Who Would Have Been Executed If There Had Been Less Time to Appeal

Many attorneys, former judges, and legal advocacy organizations have asked the government to deny the request by pointing out cases where individuals were taken off death row many years after they were sentenced. This important issue was recently highlighted by the Houston Public Media on April 9th; it highlighted one man’s story of spending 12 years on death row before a federal court tossed out his wrongful murder conviction–years after the state courts had rejected his appeals. As a result, he points out that he would have been wrongfully executed had he not been provided with the time to make it out of the state and into the federal court system.

Why Provide Less Time? How Is This Possible?

According to some of the state Attorneys General in favor of the request for faster appeals, it would spare victims years of stressful delays and reduce the costs of federal court proceedings. While in states like Texas, the average inmate on death row has been there for more than 15 years, Florida still leads the country in inmates who have spent more time on death row than any other inmate in the country (40 years).

Years ago, federal law established a means by which states could opt in for these types of restrictions (i.e. limited time for death row appeals in federal courts) if the state appointed “competent representation for poor capital defendants in post-conviction appeals at the state level.” However, up until now, no state has applied for this certification. In addition, in February 2018, a capital defense group and several death row inmates filed a lawsuit challenging the legality of this certification process. 

Florida Criminal Defense & Appellate Attorneys

If you or a loved one has been wrongfully convicted or is in need of legal advice regarding an appeal, contact our Orlando criminal defense attorneys at the Baez Law Firm today to find out how we can help.


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