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This Makes No Sense At All!

I’m not a lawyer, and this is not written to disparage our justice system or the defense lawyers for simply doing their jobs. There is no doubt that our system of justice is truly the best and most fair on the planet. However, as a law abiding tax payer that supports that system, I do have some questions and suggestions for improvement.

Early in 2010, the state of Florida carried out the death sentence for a young man who had killed a park ranger 26 YEARS AGO! Florida tax payers paid for a private cell, medical expenses, meals, and the general cost of housing and clothing for this person for more than two and a half decades! A Florida Department of Corrections report states “A total of 8.5% of the state general revenue budget goes to corrections in Florida, which has a budget of more than $2 billion dollars. $1.47 billion of that goes directly toward security and institutional operations, and another $424 million toward health services for inmates, including mental health and dental.” The report goes on to indicate that the average cost to house each inmate is $55.09 per day. $55.09 x 365 x 26 = $522,804. Additionally, we paid for a multitude of appeals and the court’s time in hearing them over and over and over again. We all know that a lawyer’s time is expensive, and we also know that we pay for the public defender’s office. Hence, I’m guessing we also paid for all of this convict’s appeals over the 26 years. So, in addition to the expenses mentioned already, suppose that defense attorney time and costs were a mere, and ridiculously low, 4-hours a month @ $250 and hour. $1,000 x 12 x 26 = $312,000. Not even taking into account the court’s time and costs, the cost and time for the defense to get depositions, travel, obtain and pay expert witnesses, and the additional cost on the prosecution side for every appeal hearing; being VERY conservative in costs, we easily paid over three quarter million dollars keeping this guy housed before eventually carrying out his original sentence.

At a time when Florida and other states are looking for ways to save money, I have a suggestion that does not reduce one’s right to a fair trial and eventual justice. I suggest that the week after a person receives the death sentence, make it a requirement that the next appellate court review that case within the next month.  The same for any further appeals … each appellate court’s first order of business would be to review, hear, and rule on all capital cases.  Other cases can wait.  How long would it take to reach the State Supreme Court, get a final ruling, and the process be finalized?  In addition to the money saved, it would not hurt any state's reputation if folks began saying, “get sentenced to death in that state and they carry it out within a year, if not sooner. Appeals DONE! Justice DONE! Move on!