States Seeking 'Timely Justice' Move to Speed Up Executions

Image: States Seeking 'Timely Justice' Move to Speed Up Executions A hearse leaves Florida State Prison in Starke carrying the body of David Alan Gore, who was put to death by lethal injection on April 12, 2012, for the murder of 17-year-old Lynn Elliott on July 26, 1983.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013 11:31 AM

By Courtney Coren

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Some state legislatures are amending their death penalty laws to speed up executions in defiance of a move in recent years to do away with capital punishment.

In Florida, Republican Gov. Rick Scott is considering whether to sign the Timely Justice Act passed by legislators in April that would require executions to be carried out within 180 days of the governor signing the death warrant to start the process.

"Too many defendants are gaming the system with legal maneuvers that have no bearing on guilt or innocence. ... This law will put teeth back into Florida's death penalty," said state GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz, the chief sponsor of the bill.

Legislators in North Carolina also are about to pass a measure that would overturn the 2009 Racial Justice Act, which allows death row inmates to challenge sentences based on the assumption that a conviction was racially motivated.

Republican state Sen. Thom Goolsby said the problem with the Racial Justice Act is that it "makes every district attorney into a racist." Some North Carolina lawmakers complain that the current law has slowed the execution process, noting that no death sentences have been carried out in the state since 2006.

Other states, such as Georgia and Arkansas, are trying to fix problems with their lethal-injection procedures, which have also slowed down the execution process.

The moves, though, to speed up the process of putting convicted criminals to death runs counter to efforts in other states to halt executions. Since 2007, the Journal reported, six states have abolished capital punishment, citing the expense of fighting the appeals process and inefficiencies in the system that could lead to wrongful executions of the innocent.

Opponents of the efforts essentially aimed at putting more inmates to death faster argue that the execution process should be slowed even more to avoid mistakes.

"There's no way to ask for forgiveness if you execute an innocent person," said Democratic state Rep. Kionne McGhee of Florida, who voted against the Timely Justice Act passed there.

For its part, the public still supports the death penalty by a majority of 63 percent, according to a Gallup survey in January. But that figure marks the lowest level of support for capital punishment in 39 years.

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