Saturday, November 25, 2006

The Death Penalty as Public Policy: Florida’s ‘Gutter of Shame’

TCADP Chairman Walter Moore reports:

November 24, 2006 on 7:31 pm

In Commentary, TCADP actions

I want to give you a report on the public forum, “The Death Penalty as Public Policy: Florida’s ‘Gutter of Shame’”, held last Monday evening and sponsored by ACLU of Florida, the Tallahassee branch of NAACP, the League of Women Voters of Tallahassee, and Tallahassee Citizens Against the Death Penalty.

I believe those of you who were there will agree that it was a solid success. Sheila Meehan was an able moderator, and the five panelists were truly a panel of experts.

The focus of the panel was the assessment of Florida’s administration of the death penalty, recently conducted under the auspices of the American Bar Association. Panelist Mike Minerva, a member of the ABA Assessment Team, described the report and listed its major criticisms and recommendations.

Dale Landry, who leads the NAACP’s efforts in criminal justice at both the local and the state level, pointed out that the criticisms in the ABA assessment echo the concerns that have been officially expressed by the NAACP. He welcomed and affirmed the ABA assessment. Larry Spalding, state lobbyist for ACLU, talked about the position of ACLU and emphasized the political character of decisions about the death penalty. Gale Anderson and Marty McClain, both death penalty lawyers with vast experience, used actual cases to illustrate some of the flaws in the system.&nbs!

If the panelists were impressive, so was the audience. By my rough count, attendance was at least 170, most of them students from FAMU, FSU, and TCC. The panelists gave them plenty to think about. About half of the audience signed a petition calling upon Governor-Elect Crist to suspend executions until the problems identified in the ABA assessment can be addressed. (If we hadn’t run out of petitions, more people would have signed.)

Thanks are due first of all to Sheila and the panelists for sharing their expertise with us. Thanks also to the sponsoring organizations for strong support. We owe a special thanks to Aeriel Coleman, our student intern for this project. It was obvious that Aeriel had done an effective job of reaching and motivating the students.

This forum reflected a productive partnership among the sponsoring organizations. I look forward to more of the same in the future.

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