Release of 100th Death Row Inmate with Evidence of Innocence Shows Urgent Need for Statewide Moratorium on Executions
April 10, 2002
MIAMI ? Saying the release of Ray Krone in Arizona is a wake-up call to elected officials in Florida, the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida today urged state leaders to declare a statewide moratorium on all executions while the problems plaguing the death penalty system are addressed.
Krone, the 100th person to be released from death row with proof of his innocence, could have been executed for a murder he did not commit, proving once again that far too many examples of serious errors exist in our nation's death penalty systems.
"America's death penalty system was poised to execute an innocent person," said Howard Simon, Executive Director of the ACLU of Florida. "The release of the 100th person from death row is the time for Governor Bush and members of the Florida legislature to recognize that the death penalty system is not working."
With 22 exonerated inmates since 1973, Florida ranks at the top of the list of states whose death row inmates were released due to evidence of their innocence, according to the Death Penalty Information Center based in Washington D.C. (Florida experts on the death penalty, including representatives from Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, count 24 exonerated prisoners in Florida, including Sunny Jacobs and Joe Spaziano).
In a press conference today at the ACLU of Florida's Miami office, Juan Roberto Melendez, the 99th person in the country to walk free, joined death penalty opponents including SueZann Bosler of Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty to urge Gov. Bush to issue a "time-out" on executions in the state. Melendez, who now lives in Puerto Rico, attended the ACLU press conference with his mother during a brief visit to Miami. He was released in January after having spent nearly 18 years on Florida's Death Row. Prosecutors dropped all charges after Florida Circuit Court Judge Barbara Fleischer ruled that the state withheld critical evidence during his original trial.
The ACLU of Florida is calling for a moratorium on all executions to allow adequate time to explore ways of ensuring that innocent persons are not being executed, and that the system is being implemented equitably. In late January, dozens of death penalty supporters marched from the Florida State Prison to the state Capitol to deliver bundles of petitions signed by more than 20,000 citizens urging a moratorium on executions in Florida.
"There's no 'quick fix' solution to bolster a death penalty system that is not working," said ACLU of Florida's Legislative Counsel Larry Spalding, who in 1985 established the Capital Collateral Representative (CCR) as the first state agency in the country whose sole function is the defense of death-sentenced inmates in capital post-conviction proceedings. "Until we begin to address the systemic problems that send innocent people to death row ? examples of false and/or mistaken testimony, prosecutorial misconduct or untrustworthy jailhouse snitches ? those defendants who can't afford the best defense are going to be left without justice."
Contact: Alessandra Soler Meetze Communications Director, (305) 576-2337, ext. 16