What the latest death warrant cases have in common, Antonacci said, is that all three inmates have been on Death Row for more than 20 years each.
“These cases tend to be among the oldest,” he said. “That’s the way the process has worked.”
Scott’s spurt of death warrant signings also parallels the Legislature’s recent passage of a bill aimed at speeding up the death penalty appeals process. Dubbed the Timely Justice Act by legislators, the bill (HB 7083) passed both chambers by wide margins. It has not yet been sent to Scott for action.
“We’ll review it and see what it does,” Scott said of the bill.
One provision of the bill would require the governor to sign a death warrant within 30 days of a Death Row inmate’s clemency review, a standard step in all death penalty cases.
Some legal experts have raised concerns that the bill could increase the possibility that an innocent person could be put to death.
Former state Supreme Court Justice Raoul Cantero recently co-authored an opinion column in which he said the Timely Justice Act should be viewed in a broader framework of Florida’s death penalty system, “to minimize the risk that Florida might execute innocent people or others who shouldn’t be subject to the death penalty.”
Cantero’s article was co-written by Mark Schlakman, senior program director for the Center for Advancement of Human Rights at Florida State University. He noted that the Supreme Court recently produced a list of 110 Death Row inmates whose appeals have been exhausted, which he said contradicts the perception that courts take too long to review death cases.
Florida is one of only two states to allow split juries to recommend a death sentence to a judge. The state also leads the nation with 24 cases of Death Row exonerations, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.
Florida is one of 33 states that has the death penalty, and it has 405 inmates on Death Row, more than any other state except California. The state has executed 75 people since 1976, when capital punishment was re-instituted after a long absence.
Tampa Bay Times researcher Carolyn Edds contributed to this report.