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FADP Director Abe Bonowitz, Florida Lt. Governor Toni Jennings, and Florida Death Row Survivor Juan Melendez.
Date: Thu, 18 Dec 2003 02:21:53 -0500 To: “Lt. Governor Toni Jennings” From: “Abraham J. Bonowitz” Subject: Re: Death Penalty 18 December 2003 Lt. Governor Toni Jennings Via e-mail Dear Lt. Governor Toni Jennings, Thank you for responding to my letter of protest against the use of the death penalty in Florida. I wish to address some of the claims you make in your letter: At 02:44 PM 5/14/2003 -0400, you wrote: >Thank you for your letter regarding the death penalty and for taking the >time to voice your concerns. Many people have sincere and devout beliefs >that capital punishment should be abolished. However, neither Governor Bush >nor myself believes that such a policy would promote justice or save >innocent lives. In just 30 months, from 1998 through June 2001, 2,236 people >were murdered in Florida. Many of these victims suffered horribly, and >their families’ pain continues for many years. During this same 30-month >time period, 10 convicted murderers were executed. Those executed were >guilty of the most brutal and merciless killings. Many other prisoners are >sentenced to life in prison for less-heinous first-degree murders, >second-degree murders, and armed robbery. The numbers you present are stunning. Ten executions in exchange for 2,236 murder victims. How can that possibly be justice? You talk about saving innocent lives. I believe that if you were being honest with yourself, you would be using tax dollars to PREVENT crime – instead of to punish after the fact. OVER 94% of all criminal justice dollars are spent AFTER a crime has been committed. How much does that leave for programs which address the root causes of violent crime — in other words, prevention? NOT MUCH! Every time there is an execution in Florida, You and Governor Bush and other politicians claim that executions are “for the victim’s family.” But the fact is that of all the people who commit murder, who are caught, who could get the death penalty, fewer than 3% get sentenced to death, and far fewer than 1% actually get executed. So if executions are really for the victim’s families, then what are we saying to the victim’s families for whom there is no execution? “Your loved one wasn’t valuable enough!” In fact, when prosecutors tell a victim’s family member “You will feel better when we kill him,” what they are really doing is asking that person to put their healing process on hold for ten, 15, even 20 years or more. And that’s not right. Many victim’s families say that “no amount of killing will equal the value of our loved ones,” and “I don’t want to be responsible for someone else’s mother being put through the same pain that I had from losing my child to unnecessary violence.” >Since the use of capital punishment increased in the United States, the >murder rate has decreased. After 1963, when executions essentially ended, >murder rates soared to unprecedented heights. The murder rate in 1973 tied >the highest rate to that date, broke the record in 1974, broke it again in >1980, and peaked a third time in 1990-92. At about that time, the number of >executions began to significantly increase. By 1999, murder rates have >declined to about the 1966 levels. This is overwhelming evidence that >capital punishment saves innocent human lives. This is no evidence whatsoever. You could equally correlate those numbers with fluctuations in the economy. When the economy is up, violent crime is down. When poor people are having a harder time, there is more violent crime. We’ve had several very high profile executions here in Florida in the past year or so, and yet, according to the FBI, violent crime is once again on the rise. You really need to rethink that argument. It just doesn’t wash. >Florida law provides strict limitations on the use of capital punishment. A >person accused of a capital crime is provided free legal representation if >he or she is unable to afford a lawyer. Unlike other states, Florida law >requires the prosecutor to share evidence with the accused murderer’s >lawyer. Oh really? Please let me know when you would like to sit down to review the cases of several people who have been wrongly convicted and sentenced to death by Assistant States Attorney Hardy Pickard in the 10th Judicial Circuit (Polk County). In the cases of Juan Melendez, who you have met, and Billy Kelley, who is still on Florida’s death row, the judges who overturned their convictions and ordered new trials criticized Mr. Pickard for withholding evidence and lying to the court. And yet, Hardy Pickard is STILL working as a states attorney today. Will you please look into this and hold Hardy Pickard accountable for his attempted murder of Mr. Melendez and Mr. Kelley? Will you support legislation to hold accountable any law enforcement personal who knowingly send the wrong person to prison? >The accused is allowed access to DNA testing and other evidence >that might demonstrate innocence. Once a person is convicted of a capital >murder, the death penalty may only be imposed if aggravating factors are >proven to exist. Thus, only first-degree murders that involve unspeakable >cruelty and suffering, multiple victims, a motivation for financial gain, a >desire to eliminate a witness, and other exceptionally brutal facts qualify >for capital punishment. If only it were that simple. Money, politics, race and geography play a much larger role than the severity of the crime, in terms of determining who gets a sentence of death. This past week, the Lakeland Ledger printed a well researched and in-depth report that bears this out – you can see that report at https://www.fadp.org/news/ledger-20031215.htm I urge you and your staff to read it thoroughly. >Florida law also provides numerous levels of appeals for the convicted >individual before the sentence is moved. Once a person is convicted of an >aggravated first-degree murder and sentenced to death in Florida, the state >voluntarily provides free legal representation to the convicted murderer >until the sentence is carried out or reduced on appeal. Florida has >provided more than $55 million in post-conviction legal representation to >persons sentenced to death. No other state has invested the public resources >in capital post conviction legal representation
that Florida has been >providing for well over a decade. Your numbers are far short of the truth. Florida spends more than $51 million ANNUALLY just to try to get a hand full of executions, and that is over and above the cost of life without parole. Since Florida’s death penalty law was re-written in 1972, our state has spent more than $1 billion on its death penalty system, for a return of only 57 executions. That’s more than $18,000,000 per execution, and for what return? This is an irresponsible use of our tax dollars! What if that money had been put into education and other crime prevention measures. Think of how many victims could have been saved! >The death penalty administered under Florida law is reserved for only the >most heinous cases. What do you say to the loved ones of people for whom the commodity of the death penalty was not made available? It doesn’t matter how a person is murdered, if it is your loved one, then that murder is the most heinous, atrocious, and cruel. >Governor Bush has said many times the signing of a >death warrant is one of the most solemn responsibilities he must undertake, >and he does so with humble deliberation And with not-so-humble deliberation as to how executions will help him appease the vengeance vote. Why did Governor Bush try repeatedly to kill Amos King and Linroy Bottoson at a time when the constitutionality of Florida’s death penalty law was in question? Why did he kill Aileen Wournos and Rigoberto Sanchez Velasco, two mentally ill “volunteers” for execution at a time when the constitutionality of Florida’s death penalty law was in question? Could it have been that the election was coming up? Why could he not wait until the Florida Supreme Court had issued its final rulings in the wake of the questions raised around Ring v. Arizona? The truth is that Governor Bush has a history of campaigning on his support for the death penalty. >Again, thank you for taking the time to write about this very serious issue. I look forward to continued thoughtful and thorough dialog on this matter. Sincerely, –abe Abraham J. Bonowitz Director Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (FADP) 800-973-6548 https://www.fadp.org PMB 335, 2603 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Hwy, Gainesville, FL 32609 Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty works for restorative justice in the form of effective alternatives to the death penalty. It does so by # supporting and coordinating the work of organizations and individuals # educating and energizing the general public and state legislators # supporting the many persons affected by capital crime and punishment # advocating specific legislative improvements
Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty
2603 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Hwy
Gainesville, FL 32609