FL Governor Rick Scott steps up pace on signing death warrants - WSPA.com

FL Governor Rick Scott steps up pace on signing death warrants

Posted: Updated:
TALLAHASSEE, FL -

Gov. Rick Scott is signing death warrants at a pace rarely seen in Florida since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976.
    
Scott already has signed five death warrants this year, including three in a recent span of less than four weeks.
    
"I go through them and when people have exhausted their appeals and when they're finished with their clemency process, then I continue to move the process along," Scott said.
    
But death-penalty opponents see the surge in death warrants signed as upsetting.
    
"He's clearing out death row," said the Rev. Phil Egitto, a Roman Catholic priest from Daytona Beach who organizes protests at each execution. "It's very, very crazy. It's very unusual. It is my understanding that Gov. Scott wants to be hard on crime, but I don't think this is the answer."
    
So far only one of the five condemned men has been executed - Larry Eugene Mann was put to death by lethal injection last month for kidnapping and murdering 10-year-old Elisa Vera Nelson on Nov. 4, 1980. Still, there are five active warrants. Scott signed John Errol Ferguson's death warrant last year, but the execution has been delayed as his lawyers seek appeals. Florida law states that once a warrant is signed, it remains in full effect even if the initial execution date passes.
    
If the sentences are carried out this year for each of the active warrants, it would guarantee at least the most executions in Florida in one year since six people were executed in 2000, Gov. Jeb Bush's second year in office. The only other year there have been more than four executions since the death penalty reinstatement was in 1984 under Gov. Bob Graham, when eight people were put to death. Two prisoners were executed in Scott's first year in office, and three were executed last year.
    
That pace might not continue, though. Scott recognizes that it takes resources at the attorney general's office to challenge appeals and it adds to the courts' workload when warrants are signed, said Pete Antonacci, the governor's top lawyer.
    
"The governor is sensitive to that and is making sure the system operates smoothly," Antonacci said. "We're making sure we don't do too much at one time."
    
There are 400 men and five women on Florida's death row - and most of them have been there for more than a decade.  Sixteen of the inmates were sentenced in the 1970s, 73 in the 1980s and 142 during the 1990s.
    
Signing a death warrant isn't just a process of randomly picking a condemned prisoner, Antonacci said. Another lawyer in the governor's offices monitors all death cases and where they stand in the state and federal appeals process.
    
Once appeals are exhausted, the governor's office will pick cases to undergo a review by the Office of Executive Clemency, which includes an interview with the condemned and other people involved in the case to determine whether there's any reason the governor shouldn't sign a warrant. That process is sometimes delayed because public defenders have to appoint a lawyer for the condemned prisoner and their budgets are limited, Antonacci said.
    
Antonacci also pointed out that the Supreme Court reviews every death case to make sure the punishment is proper well before the governor signs a death warrant.
    
Public defenders are suing the state, saying they don't have enough lawyers or money to handle their workload. They're seeking the right to not accept cases. The state Supreme Court is reviewing the claim and has yet to issue an opinion.
    
The five people now awaiting execution are:
    
- John Errol Ferguson, condemned for killing eight people in Miami-Dade County in 1977 and 1978, including six who were bound and killed execution-style. At the time it was the largest mass slaying in county history. Scott signed his death warrant Sept. 5, but his execution has been on hold while the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit considers his lawyers' claim he suffers from mental illness so severe that he shouldn't be eligible.
    
- Paul Augustus Howell, a South Florida drug dealer who killed Florida Highway Patrol Trooper Jimmy Fulford with a pipe bomb in 1992. Scott signed his death warrant Jan. 18, but the execution is on hold while the 11th Circuit Court considers his lawyers' claim that his trial lawyer had a conflict of interest due to a death threat that prompted him to withdraw from Howell's federal drug case. They also argue that the lawyer failed to find and present mitigating evidence that could have persuaded Howell's jury to recommend a life sentence.
    
- Elmer Leon Carroll, scheduled to die by lethal injection May 29 for raping and suffocating 10-year-old Christine McGowan after breaking into her Apopka home in 1990. Scott signed his death warrant April 17.
    
- William Van Poyck, scheduled to die June 12 for the murder of prison guard Fred Griffis in 1987. Scott signed his death warrant May 3.
    
- Marshall Lee Gore, scheduled to die June 24 for the 1988 murders of Susan Roark and Robyn Novick. He also left a third victim, Tina Coralis, for dead after beating, raping and stabbing her. Scott signed his death warrant Monday.
    
Meanwhile, Scott is considering whether to sign a bill that would speed up executions by creating tighter timeframes for appeals and post-conviction motions and by imposing reporting requirements on case progress. The measure also would re-establish a separate agency for north Florida to provide appellate-level legal representation to inmates sentenced to death and require them to "pursue all possible remedies in state court."

  • 8 On Your SideMore>>

  • Magic diet pill promoter found running new business in Tampa

    Magic diet pill promoter found running new business in Tampa

    Tuesday, September 2 2014 5:02 PM EDT2014-09-02 21:02:23 GMT
    File Photo: Nick CongletonFile Photo: Nick Congleton
    Nick Congleton is in hot water with the FTC for selling "magic diet pills," and under investigation by Florida's Attorney General for a defunct travel club that owes hundreds of consumers for vacations they never received.Now, he's keeping a low profile and running a new business out of an unmarkedwarehouse in the Channelside District, where he didn't have much to say to Eight On Your Side this morning.
    Nick Congleton is in hot water with the FTC for selling "magic diet pills," and under investigation by Florida's Attorney General for a defunct travel club that owes hundreds of consumers for vacations they never received.Now, he's keeping a low profile and running a new business out of an unmarkedwarehouse in the Channelside District, where he didn't have much to say to Eight On Your Side this morning.
  • Home Depot probing 'Unusual Activity' after reports of data breach

    Home Depot probing 'Unusual Activity' after reports of data breach

    Tuesday, September 2 2014 1:55 PM EDT2014-09-02 17:55:41 GMT
    Home Depot may be the latest retailer to suffer a massive credit card breachHome Depot may be the latest retailer to suffer a massive credit card breach
    Home Depot may be the latest retailer to have suffered a massive credit card breach, the company confirmed on Tuesday, after Krebs on Security reported that a large cache of stolen data had appeared on black market sites.
    Home Depot may be the latest retailer to have suffered a massive credit card breach, the company confirmed on Tuesday, after Krebs on Security reported that a large cache of stolen data had appeared on black market sites.
  • Community reaches out to Spring Hill family after theft of lawn equipment

    Community reaches out to Spring Hill family after theft of lawn equipment

    Tuesday, September 2 2014 8:45 AM EDT2014-09-02 12:45:21 GMT
    Michael Depace wants to say "thank you" and give a huge hug to everyone that reached out after a thief stole $3,500 worth of lawn equipment from him.
    Michael Depace wants to say "thank you" and give a huge hug to everyone that reached out after a thief stole $3,500 worth of lawn equipment from him.
  • NewsMore>>

  • Suspect who ran over Palm Harbor security guard to turn himself in says attorney

    Suspect who ran over Palm Harbor security guard to turn himself in says attorney

    Tuesday, September 2 2014 9:59 PM EDT2014-09-03 01:59:51 GMT
    The suspect was involved in an altercation inside the establishment just before 3 am Friday.The suspect was involved in an altercation inside the establishment just before 3 am Friday.
    The man who investigators say intentionally ran over a security guard at a Palm Harbor nightclub early Friday morning will turn himself in on Wednesday according to his attorney, Barry Cohen.
    The man who investigators say intentionally ran over a security guard at a Palm Harbor nightclub early Friday morning will turn himself in on Wednesday according to his attorney, Barry Cohen.
  • Online business complaint lands Sarasota woman and BBB in lawsuit

    Online business complaint lands Sarasota woman and BBB in lawsuit

    Tuesday, September 2 2014 7:46 PM EDT2014-09-02 23:46:44 GMT
    Can you be sued over your online complaint about a company? That's what happened to Sarah Kessler, of Sarasota.
    Can you be sued over your online complaint about a company? That's what happened to Sarah Kessler, of Sarasota.
  • Is your data safe in Apple’s iCloud?

    Is your data safe in Apple’s iCloud?

    Tuesday, September 2 2014 6:04 PM EDT2014-09-02 22:04:56 GMT
    Hackers gained access to celebrities private pictures including nude photos of actress Jennifer Lawrence. Apple says it has fixed a security flaw but cybersecurity experts say anyone can become a victim.“Anybody can get hacked.
    Hackers gained access to celebrities private pictures including nude photos of actress Jennifer Lawrence. Apple says it has fixed a security flaw but cybersecurity experts say anyone can become a victim.“Anybody can get hacked.
  • Top StoriesTop StoriesMore>>

  • 2 Arrested After Deputies Find Child With Broken Arm, Burn Injuries

    2 Arrested After Deputies Find Child With Broken Arm, Burn Injuries

    Tuesday, September 2 2014 10:01 PM EDT2014-09-03 02:01:52 GMT
    Mugshots provided by the Cherokee County Sheriff's OfficeMugshots provided by the Cherokee County Sheriff's Office
    A child abuse call Sunday had officers arriving in the emergency room to a girl with a broken arm and the adult with her changing their story of how it happened. 
    A child abuse call Sunday had officers arriving in the emergency room to a girl with a broken arm and the adult with her changing their story of how it happened. 
  • Teen Sues SC Over License Photo

    Teen Sues SC Over License Photo

    Tuesday, September 2 2014 6:38 PM EDT2014-09-02 22:38:19 GMT
    Chase Culpepper, 16, was asked to remove his makeup before taking his driver’s license picture.Chase Culpepper, 16, was asked to remove his makeup before taking his driver’s license picture.
    An organization that supports transgender rights is suing South Carolina after the state wouldn't issue a driver's license to a 16-year-old boy unless he took off his makeup.
    An organization that supports transgender rights is suing South Carolina after the state wouldn't issue a driver's license to a 16-year-old boy unless he took off his makeup.
  • Documents Reveal Plan to Overhaul Emergency Care

    Documents Reveal Plan to Overhaul Emergency Care

    Tuesday, September 2 2014 6:32 PM EDT2014-09-02 22:32:56 GMT
    Documents reveal the "politically sensitive" plan to overhaul EMS.Documents reveal the "politically sensitive" plan to overhaul EMS.
    7 On Your Side Investigations uncovered new documents that detail a “politically sensitive” proposal for overhauling the Greenville County EMS system. The plan would change the way ambulances respond in a 9-1-1 emergency and would give control of the life-saving service to the county's largest hospital chain, Greenville Health System. 
    7 On Your Side Investigations uncovered new documents that detail a “politically sensitive” proposal for overhauling the Greenville County EMS system. The plan would change the way ambulances respond in a 9-1-1 emergency and would give control of the life-saving service to the county's largest hospital chain, Greenville Health System. 
Powered by WorldNow

250 International Dr.
Spartanburg, S.C. 29303

Telephone: 864.576.7777
Fax: 864.587.5430
Email: webmaster@wspa.com

Can't find something?
Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Media General Communications Holdings, LLC. A Media General Company.