Justice Raoul Cantero III knows his stuff: he’s served as a justice on the Florida Supreme Court. So does Mark Schlakman, who has been a senior program director at the Center for the Advancement of Human Rights at Florida State University. When these two team up to write an opinion piece, you betcha I’m gonna read it — and hopefully a lot of other people will, too.

Cantero and Schlakman are Blunt: the Current Florida Death Penalty System is “FRAUGHT WITH PROBLEMS”

Essentially, these two experts in the field have taken the American Bar Association report that analyzed the state of Florida’s death penalty system as it stood three years ago, and they’ve compared it to the realities of the system today.  It wasn’t a namby-pamby report:  the ABA put together a team of the highest quality experts in the field, and financed their TWO YEAR study of the Florida system.  Surely some of what they recommended (and their recommendations had to be unanimous to be included) would be respected and implemented, right?  Nope.

Florida fails in the comparison. 

According to their op-ed piece, Cantero and Schlakman discovered that neither the Florida Bar Association nor the State of Florida have done much of anything in response to the ABA’s report.  Nada, really.  Meanwhile, since 1973, they note that Florida has exonerated more Death Row inmates than any other state.

 The op-ed itself is R. Cantero & M. Schlakman, “State’s death penalty system still ‘fraught with problems,'” Florida Times-Union, Sept. 25, 2009 (op-ed), 

Here are some highlights: 

“Among the report’s findings was that legal representation of death penalty defendants in postconviction proceedings is often abysmal.”

“…called upon the Legislature to revisit the death penalty statute.”

“The report also expresses concern about socioeconomic and geographic bias. Prosecutors from one circuit might opt for the death penalty while prosecutors from another might opt for life without parole.”

“Circuit judges, who preside over capital cases, while nonpartisan and subject to the judicial canons, are not completely immune from such dynamics, since they also face the voters periodically.”

Please read this opinion piece and share it with others.  It’s important.