Of course, there’s a third possible reason the governor decided to grant New Smyrna Beach alligators a reprieve from his mob of liquored-up, gun-toting campaign contributors. However unintentionally, Florida’s attorney general had just come up with an even more brilliant fundraising scheme. Something more to Florida’s liking.
Last week, Pam Bondi persuaded Scott to postpone the execution of a brutal rapist and woman-killer named Marshall Lee Gore, who had been scheduled to die last Tuesday. It seems Gore’s appointment with the death chamber conflicted with her rather conventional eat-and-greet reelection campaign fund-raiser that night in Tampa.
The request was granted by the same governor who earlier this summer signed a constitutionally questionable law, the “Timely Justice Act,” to limit Death Row appeals because, he explained, delays bring “a crushing burden of uncertainty to the victims’ families.”
Gore’s killing was rescheduled for Oct. 1, when the attorney general’s calendar will be unencumbered with the crushing burden of fundraising. However, when this explanation reverberated around the state’s media, the postponement didn’t seem such a savvy political move for either the governor or the attorney general.
Those voters irritated by the average of 13.2 years that murder convicts spend on Florida’s Death Row as their appeals wend through the courts (although less than the national average for capital cases) were stunned that these two champions of the quickie death penalty would grant a particularly infamous murderer another 20 days of existence so Pam could grovel for campaign contributors.
Nor was Gore’s stay of execution quite the act of compassion apt to win over the anti-death-penalty chunk of the electorate.
Bondi apologized while Scott disowned responsibility for the reprieve faster than Johnny Manziel can sign an autograph. Scott told reporters, as if an execution were a mundane bureaucratic exercise, “My office had a request from the Attorney General’s Office to postpone the execution, and so they made a decision to postpone it, and anything else you’d have to ask the attorney general.”
But it must have occurred to Scott, just two days after he had scuttled his unseemly alligator hunt, that Bondi had stumbled onto a lucrative fundraising scheme much more tailored to the taste of Florida voters.
Last year, Florida handed out the death penalty to 21 defendants, more than any other state, even Texas (just a tepid nine capital convictions in 2012). Six states have repealed capital punishment since 2007, bothered by the inequities in meting out the death penalty and by the post-conviction DNA acquittals. But Florida has gone quite the other way. We do love our executions.
Scott’s crack reelection team must have realized Bondi’s miscalculation. She should have staged the two events, the execution and the fundraiser, simultaneously.
With 405 prisoners on Death Row, and 135 of them qualifying for a rush job under the Timely Justice Act, the governor’s operatives could sell scads of $25,000 exclusive death chamber tickets to Tallahassee lobbyists and fat-cat contributors. Surely an exclusive seat at a lethal injection would capture the essence of his reelection campaign better than a private alligator hunt.
Tuxedos optional. BYOB. Space is limited. Make out your checks to “Let’s Get to Killing.”