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Gov. Scott Kills Florida Innocence Commission

Update: The source for this article was wrong. There was no veto of the funding.

If you didn’t think Gov. Rick Scott of Florida could be any more repulsive, you were wrong. He’s now eliminated the Florida Innocence Commission, which reviews claims of innocence in state courts and advocates for reforms that will reduce the number of wrongful commissions.

Florida holds the dubious honor of wrongfully convicting the largest number of innocent people put on death row. Since 1973, the Sunshine State wrongfully incarcerated and released twenty-three people set for a state sanctioned killing. And nationwide, 140 people in twenty-six states have been exonerated of the crimes for which they were convicted and sent to death row. If this tells independent voters anything, it’s that the criminal justice system is in desperate need of reform, with capital punishment leading the way.

It would seem that miscarriages of justice of such a magnitude would lead Florida policy makers and political leaders to take measures to ensure that number declines. Despite this grisly scenario, Florida Republican Governor Rick Scott recently eliminated the funding necessary to keep the Florida Innocence Commission alive. Created by the Florida Supreme Court, the commission is tasked with advocating for reforms after examining wrongful convictions by “studying false eyewitness identifications, interrogation techniques, false confessions, the use of informants, the handling of forensic evidence, attorney competence and conduct, the processing of cases and the administration of the death penalty.”

But with one stroke of the pen, Scott nixed the Commission by vetoing the funds the legislature appropriated for it – which last year stood at $200,000, a drop in the bucket for a state with a2013 budget of about $70 billion. This isn’t the first time Scott meddled with attempts at reforming Florida’s criminal justice system. Earlier this year he vetoed a nearly unanimous piece of legislation (combined House and Senate vote 152-4 in favor) that would move non-violent drug offenders out of prison and into treatment programs after completing half of their sentence.

I’d say this is unbelievable, but it’s entirely believable. And Balko points out that this isn’t just wrong on grounds of justice and fairness, it’s also fiscally irresponsible. The veto of funding for the innocence commission saves about $200,000 a year, but wrongful convictions cost the state an average of $2 million per case.

Comments

  1. Alverant says

    But he doesn’t want to look soft on crime by letting people out of prison. The fact they don’t belong in prison is irrevelant to him.

  2. slc1 says

    Hey, fuckface Rick Scott is just being a faithful follower of Supreme Court Justice Scalia.

  3. Skip White says

    It’s like Florida just doesn’t care anymore if anyone visits or moves there.

  4. savagemutt says

    The veto of funding for the innocence commission saves about $200,000 a year, but wrongful convictions cost the state an average of $2 million per case.

    But by destroying the commission, wrongful convictions are less likely to be discovered, thus saving even more money!

    It’s a win for everyone. Well, except for the dead, innocent people. And they were probably up to something.

  5. erichoug says

    Why is it that so many Republicans think the government is entirely incompetent and un-reliable until it comes to criminal justice matters. In which case, the government paid judge is 100% infallible and should never be questioned.

  6. unbound says

    Now, now. We all know that we really don’t have “innocent until proven guilty” like we want to portray on TV.

    Everyone is guilty until proven innocent by a well-paid lawyer.

  7. d cwilson says

    erichoug @#6:

    But judges in civil matters are ruthless tyrants who “legislate from the bench”.

  8. says

    Why is it that so many Republicans think the government is entirely incompetent and un-reliable until it comes to criminal justice matters.

    Um, because small government? Wait, I know: tax cuts!

  9. d cwilson says

    Minorities (ie, democrat voters) are more likely to get the death penalty than whites, so think of it as another step in Scott’s voter purge.

  10. erichoug says

    d cwilson @#8

    HAHA, I almost put that in there too but it is just too much stupid for one post. Thanks for covering it for me ;]

  11. flakko says

    @slc1 #3

    That’s exactly what I was thinking. Actual guilt or innocence is just ancillary tedium; what is most important is that the defendant receive a “fair” trial. Yeah, our system doesn’t need to be reformed at all…

  12. iknklast says

    In the weird world of Christian fundamentalism most of these folks inhabit, there are no innocent people. We are all sinners, and the wages of sin are death, or so their book tells us. So, what need for an innocence commission? The answer is foregone – innocent? Hah!

    So why are the rest of us out walking around, if we’re not innocent? I guess we’ve beaten the game, and been able to elude the authorities, but Jesus will get us all soon enough, and dump us into punishment for eternity. Unless we are willing to worship him, that is.

  13. D. C. Sessions says

    I’m surprised that nobody has drawn the connection between this and North Carolina’s seal level science.

  14. timberwoof says

    I draw a parallel between this and the defense attorney who explained to Captain Picard that Cardassian police don’t waste their time arresting innocent people.

  15. netamigo says

    I thought Rick Perry was bad on this issue. Scott sounds as bad if not worse.

  16. Trickster Goddess says

    For every innocent person on death row, there is a guilty murderer walking free. If these “tough on crime” types were really serious, they would want to be sure the real criminal was the one getting punished.

    Why is Gov. Scott in favour of letting murderers go unpunished?

  17. michaelcrichton says

    Earlier this year he vetoed a nearly unanimous piece of legislation (combined House and Senate vote 152-4 in favor) that would move non-violent drug offenders out of prison and into treatment programs after completing half of their sentence.

    What, exactly, prevented them from overriding that veto? 38/39 is way more than the 2/3 they would have needed.

  18. Ichthyic says

    I read a couple of comments on the opinion piece in the Miami Herald that said it was inaccurate; that Scott in fact did not eliminate funding for this agency?

    anyone confirm what actually happened?

  19. laurentweppe says

    Why is it that so many Republicans think the government is entirely incompetent and un-reliable until it comes to criminal justice matters

    They don’t: most of them are not from the social/racial groups which bear the brunt of criminal justice incompetence, so they think that:
    1. The system if fucked up and rigged, but rigged in their favor
    OR
    2. If they aknowledge it too loudly, they run the risk of meeting an angry mob of poor people with torches, pitchforks and a revanchist agenda
    HENCE
    3. They’ll play dumb in order to obfuscate the matter.

    You’ve heard about the Hanlon’s Razor?
    Well, Hanlon’s Razor is wrong. It’s false; It’s light years from the reality of human nature; and using it as a guideline is the best way to end up hurt. If something can be explained adequatly by either stupidity or the cynical defense of one social class: always assume that you’re facing someone cynically defending their social class.

  20. FlickingYourSwitch says

    So he thinks that prison is better than treatment for drug addicts?

    Do Republicans even bother pretending to be good people anymore, or are they going for a combination of evil and stupid without a trace of shame now?

  21. says

    FlickingYourSwitch, most of them are good people. The bad ones just stand out because there are so many of them.

    That sounded better before I said it out loud.

  22. says

    It is a trait of right-wing politicians and businesspersons to step on the less advantaged. If you’re poor, go to hell, get fucked, stay away from me. This trait resonates throughout politics and business practices.

    I sometimes think the human race is divided into two parts, those who care about others and those who don’t.

  23. says

    reverendrodney “I sometimes think the human race is divided into two parts, those who care about others and those who don’t.”
    And sometimes I think that those two parts get into a sexy catfight. Eventually, the screaming jolts me from my daydream. Then I have to find a job at yet another cab company.

  24. kimulrick says

    After they find out they’ve wrongly convicted someone because they picked someone and went after them until they got them regardless of evidence, do they go back and try to find the real culprit?

    As in, do they care about catching real murderers? It always seems bizarre to me that people who are so concerned with punishing people seem so blaise about murderers getting away with it scott free.

  25. Ichthyic says

    has anyone confirmed that the funding for this program actually has been eliminated?

    I can’t get a good source of info beyond opinion pages.

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