ABA Reviews Florida’s Death Penalty

The ABA Death Penalty Moratorium Implementation Project is currently in the process of doing state-by-state assessments of capital punishment systems. This week, the Florida study was released. The report is an indictment of the system, chastising many flaws (Florida is the state with the dubious distinction of having the most people exonerated from its death row- 21 to date). The study finds numerous areas of failure in Florida’s system and calls for a number of reforms to be implemented.

You can read the full report here although I’d stick with the Executive Summary, it’s a very long report.

The ABA is currently working on an assessment of Tennessee’s capital punishment system which should be released by the end of the year. While we don’t have the shocking exoneration record of Florida, we know that we have innocent people on death row right here in Tennessee (think of Paul House or the case of Erskine Johnson, no longer on death row but still in prison for a crime he did not commit). We know that our system fails to provide adequate counsel for indigent defendants just as regularly. We know, with the recent near execution of Daryl Holton and Paul Dennis Reid, that our system fails to properly understand and protect people suffering from mental illness from execution. And we know that race plays a major role in death sentences here just like everywhere else.

So when the ABA releases its assessment of Tennessee this fall/winter, we have to be ready. We’ll be watching Florida to see how abolitionists use the assessment to further strategic work toward a moratorium in their state, so that we can do as well, or even better. So read the Florida assessment if you have a chance, and get ready for Tennessee’s. It will provide a unique opportunity for us to educate the public and our policy-makers about the deadly flaws in our death penalty system.

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