Death penalty acquittal recharges capital punishment debate listen12/28/12 Janelle Irwin
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A South Florida death row inmate was acquitted last week of a 1994 triple murder. Seth Penalver, is now a free man after being also acquitted of armed robbery and armed burglary.
Mark Elliot is the director of Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty. I spoke with him today about what the acquittal means for the future of the death penalty in Florida.
"Florida has, by far, the most exonerated [sic] death row inmates with 24. No state comes close. Since the 1970's we've exonerated those 24 innocent people from death row and we've executed 74 people. We've had 1 exoneration for every 3 executions. Frank Lee Smith was exonerated after he died of cancer on death row after he was there 15 years. He was the only one not freed, every one else was freed."
What would you like to see happen? Is this something where you'd like to see legislative action, perhaps changes to the justice system itself? Where do we go from here?
"The number of death sentences nationally has fallen dramatically in the last few years. In Florida it's ramped up. And while these other states are reducing their death sentences mostly due to the high cost of the system and the risk of executing innocent people we're condemning the most people to death of any state and releasing record numbers of innocent people from death row so it just doesn't add up. It's time for Governor Scott to act and call a halt to executions in Florida to prevent the possible execution of other wrongfully convicted people."
He (Seth Palver) has spent more than half of his life in jail for a crime that he was exonerated of, is he going to get any kind of compensation for that? Is he entitled to any kind of legal recourse, maybe a civil action any thing like that that you know of?
"The recourse, the paths that are open for compensation are difficult and take years to have any chance of success. It's really a cumbersome program in Florida and very, very few people are compensated to any degree. When a person is exonerated from death row, like Seth Palver, they essentially get the pair of jeans they have on and the shirt and the shoes and maybe a bus ticket. And that's it. And it's 'see you later'. No counseling, no funds for anything, no help whatsoever. They actually get less resources than someone who is guilty and served their time."
Is there any speculation and concerns that perhaps there are people that have been executed or that are still sitting on death row, that aren't going to get exonerated that perhaps should be?
"The state fights tooth and nail against these exonerations and it's likely there's more innocent people on death row. It's anybody's guess how many innocent people have been executed in Florida. There's at least half a dozen people who've been executed that there are serious doubts about their guilt."
That was Mark Elliot, director of Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty talking about the acquittal of Seth Penalver in South Florida.