STUDIES: A Review of the Florida Death Penalty
Christopher Slobogin, Professor of Law and Psychiatry at Vanderbilt University, has written an evaluation of Florida's death penalty to be published in a forthcoming edition of the Elon University Law Review. The evaluation is based on a study by an assessment team sponsored by the American Bar Association. Florida is one of the leading states in sentencing people to death, but it also has the most death row exonerations of any state in the country. Florida was chosen by the ABA to be one of eight death penalty states reviewed under its Death Penalty Moratorium Implementation Project. The purpose of this project was to allow states to identity and eliminate flaws in their death penalty system. The Florida Assessment Team was led by Prof. Slobogin and was instructed to investigate the following aspects of death penalty administration: "police investigation procedures; the use of DNA evidence; crime laboratories and medical examiners; prosecutorial discretion; defense services; jury instructions; the judicial role; the direct appeal process; state post-conviction and federal habeas proceedings; clemency proceedings; the treatment of racial and ethnic minorities; and the treatment of people with mental illness and mental retardation."
According to the law review article, "The description of Florida law and practice … raises grave doubts about whether all of the people who are currently on death row in Florida (not to mention the twenty-two who have been released from it) deserve it. Problems associated with police investigative techniques, scientific testing procedures, prosecutorial decisions during charging and trial, defense attorney qualifications and compensation, judicial and jury decision-making, jury instructions, the clemency process, and racial and disability bias can undermine the reliability of convictions in capital cases, the death sentences handed down in such cases, or both."