To The Governors Commission on the Administration of Lethal Injection,
We write on behalf of Gainesville Citizens for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, and we applaud our former governors decision to establish the Commission on the Administration of Lethal Injection following the botched execution of Angel Diaz. We hope that Governor Charlie Crist will initiate a new commission to investigate the problems of the entire Florida death penalty system.
Florida leads the nation in the number of people freed from death row when DNA or other evidence proved their innocence. To date, more than 25 people have been freed.
Additionally, while our deepest sympathy goes to the family members of murder victims, we do not accept the argument that executions bring closure to the surviving family members. Some of our members have worked with Parents of Murdered Children and thus have seen that this is not the case. The death penalty is essentially about vengeance on behalf of all of Floridas citizens, not about closure for victims family members.
Moreover, the administration of death sentences in Florida is unfair. According to Dr. Michael Radelet, an expert on the death penalty and the former chairperson of the Sociology Department at the University of Florida and now at the University of Colorado, some prosecutors are more likely to seek the death penalty than others. In fact, a defendant is more likely to receive the death penalty in five Florida counties than in the rest of our state. Dr. Radelet also says that, in the history of Floridas administration of capital punishment, not a single white person has been executed for killing an African-American. This fact alone speaks volumes about the lack of fairness in our death penalty system, as does the fact that the overwhelming majority of death row inmates are indigent and uneducated.
As disturbing as these facts are, it is equally disturbing to witness that nothing, seemingly, is done to prosecutors who withhold evidence or who are guilty of other forms of prosecutorial misconduct. For example, in the case of Juan Melendez, the prosecutor concealed a signed confession from a police informant stating that he, not Mr. Melendez, had committed the murder. Yet Mr. Melendez spent over 17 years on death row. To the best of our knowledge, this prosecutor was not brought to justice for his misconduct.
Furthermore, the death penalty does not deter murder. According to Dr. Radelet, there is no statistical evidence to support this contention. Moreover, many murders are committed in the heat of passion or when the murderers are mentally unbalanced, often as a result of child abuse. In these instances, no law will stop them, as the case of Danny Rolling demonstrates.
Finally, the death penalty drains resources that could be better used elsewhere. The Florida Supreme Court spends an inordinate amount of time on death penalty cases, even though such cases constitute a small percentage of its caseload. Each execution costs the taxpayers $3.5 to $4 million, and the annual cost of the death penalty system is over $50 million. This money could be better spent in aiding the families of the victims or in improving the educational system.
In short, everything that Illinois Governor George Ryan found wrong with the death penalty system in his state is also true of our state, and to a much greater degree.
We thank the Commission for its investigation into the truth about the execution of Angel Diaz. We ask that you recommend that Governor Crist establish a new commission to investigate the entire Florida death penalty system and continue the moratorium on executions until that new commission makes its recommendations.
Ramona Caponegro, Co-Coordinator
Dr. Glenn Dickson, Co-Coordinator
GAINESVILLE CITIZENS FOR ALTERNATIVES TO THE DEATH PENALTY, GCADP
February 8, 2007