Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Commission Hears Testimony on Death Penalty Proposals

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Commission Hears Testimony on Death Penalty Proposals

Article excerpt

TALLAHASSEE -- A commission studying changes in Florida's death penalty laws heard about the Weiler family yesterday and about Tinker Parker.

The 1982 murders of Nancy Weiler and her two children in Jacksonville were introduced to show the glacial pace of executions and the need to speed up the process.

Parker, whose death sentence for three other 1982 Jacksonville murders was reversed, was cited as an example of how the system sometimes makes mistakes that are not discovered for years.

The Legislature must choose between those viewpoints when it holds a special session Jan. 5-7 to enact lethal injection as a method of execution and reform the appeals process.

The session was called after the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to decide whether the state's use of electrocution constitutes cruel and unusual punishment.

The commission, which took testimony on the issues, will meet Jan. 4 to make its recommendations.

The legislation under consideration would put tighter time limits on the post-conviction appeals that raise new issues after the Florida Supreme Court upholds the initial appeal of the conviction.

Judges who testified found problems with the wording of the proposed bills that the Legislature will consider and suggested leaving some of the procedural changes in appeals up to the Florida Supreme Court.

Circuit Judge O.H. Eaton of Sanford criticized provisions that would limit public records requests by defendants, cut off state money for a post-conviction representation if a defendant requests a different lawyer and give less weight to a jury's recommendation on sentencing in death cases.

Brad Thomas, Gov. Jeb Bush's criminal justice policy coordinator, defended the bill, however, and said the federal courts and the clemency process by the governor and Cabinet provide sufficient protection. …

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