Florida Accelerates Death Penalty Process with “Timely Justice Act”

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Florida Accelerates Death Penalty Process with “Timely Justice Act”

A new Florida law signed into effect by Governor Rick Scott in June 2013 seeks to accelerate the pace of the state’s death penalty process. Many worry that the law will exacerbate existing problems in a system already plagued by errors and a lack of funding and resources.

On May 28, 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its opinion in Trevino v. Thaler, extending last term’s landmark decision in Martinez v. Ryan by a 5-4 majority.

On April 29, 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed its decision to hear a case about the Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial and dismissed it as improvidently granted.

On May 28, 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA), which restricts prisoners’ habeas corpus rights, contains an “actual innocence” exception for petitions filed outside of the law’s strict statute of limitations.

In May 2013, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit rejected an appeal by John Errol Ferguson, a Florida prisoner who has been on death row for more than three decades. Mr. Ferguson, a prisoner with a 40-year history of mental illness and a diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia, was scheduled to be executed in October of 2012.

On June 19, 2013, North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory signed the repeal of the state’s Racial Justice Act, a 2009 law that allowed death row prisoners to challenge their sentences using statewide statistics showing bias based on the race of the defendant or victim or in jury selection.

The Project is pleased to announce the winners of the 2013 Exceptional Service Award: Morgan Lewis & Bockius LLP, Carrington Coleman Sloman & Blumenthal LLP, and Rothgerber Johnson & Lyons LLP. The winner of the 2013 John Paul Stevens Guiding Hand of Counsel Award is capital defender Denny LeBoeuf.

The Project held two informational meetings in Spring 2013 for attorneys interested in learning about pro bono death penalty representation.

Witness to Innocence will honor the Death Penalty Representation Project at its 10th Anniversary Gala Celebration this fall.

The ABA Death Penalty Representation Project is urgently seeking volunteer counsel to represent a Delaware prisoner in the direct appeal of his conviction and death sentence.


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