To: Florida Governor Rick Scott
Governor Scott: Veto Florida House’s shameful bill to "speed up" death penalty
We urge you to veto House Bill 7083, which seeks to “speed up” Florida’s death penalty. Florida’s death penalty is already seriously flawed. Your state has the shameful distinction of leading the nation in the number of wrongful convictions to death row, with 24 exonerations. This bill would increase your risk of executing an innocent person. I cannot stand by and allow this legislation to pass and you are the only person who can stop it.
Please veto House Bill 7083.
Why is this important?
My name is Juan Melendez and I am one of 24 people who have been exonerated from death row in Florida for a crime I did not commit.
It is unconscionable and absurd that the Legislature of the state with the highest number of death row exonerations in the country has passed House Bill 7083 which seeks to “speed up” the state’s very flawed death penalty system. This misguided bill now sits in the hands of Florida Governor Rick Scott, and he must veto this bill.
Nationally, 142 prisoners since 1973 have been exonerated and released from prison after having been convicted and sentenced to death. Florida has the rather shameful distinction of leading the nation with 24 death row exonerations. The risk of executing an innocent person in Florida is already too high.
I should know. I languished on Florida's death row for nearly 18 years before my exoneration and release, on January 3, 2002. Even though my case was riddled with doubt, it took only one week to convict me and sentence me to death. There was no physical evidence against me, I had an airtight alibi witness, and the government's case relied upon the testimony of two highly questionable witnesses. Had it not been for the fortuitous discovery of the transcript of a taped confession of the real killer, 16 years after I had been sentenced to death, I would not be alive today. During those 16 years that I searched for the evidence that eventually led to my exoneration, the Florida Supreme Court upheld my conviction and death sentence three times on appeal.
House Bill 7083 will not "fix" Florida’s broken death penalty, it will only lead to more innocent people like me going to death row, while the real killers remain on the streets, free to kill again. Justice can never be realized through the execution of the innocent, and public safety is greatly compromised when dangerous killers are permitted to live amongst our communities because of a particularly error-prone system.
House Bill 7083 is NOT justice and I urge Gov. Scott to veto this misguided and harmful legislation.