St. Petersburg Times Online: News of Florida
TampaBay.com
Place an Ad Calendars Classified Forums Sports Weather
  • Groups sue over amendment law
  • Groups sue over amendment law
  • Redistricting question left to judges
  • Capital punishment critic says report plays politics with death
  • Capital punishment critic says report plays politics with death

  • From the state wire

  • Hurricane Jeanne appears on track to hit Florida's east coast
  • Rumor mill working overtime after Florida hurricanes
  • Developments associated with Hurricanes Ivan and Jeanne
  • Four killed in Panhandle plane crash were on Ivan charity mission
  • Hurricane Frances caused estimated $4.4 billion in insured damage
  • Disabled want more handicapped-accessible voting machines
  • USF forces administrators to resign over test score changes
  • Man's death at Universal Studios ruled accidental
  • State child welfare workers in Miami fail to do background checks
  • Hurricane Jeanne heads toward southeast U.S. coast
  • Hurricane Jeanne spurs more anxiety for storm-weary Floridians
  • Mistrial declared in case where teen was target of racial "joke"
  • Panhandle utility wants sewer plant moved to higher ground
  • State employee arrested on theft, bribery charges
  • Homestead house fire kills four children, one adult
  • Pierson leader tries to cut off relief to local fern cutters
  • Florida's high court rules Terri's law unconstitutional
  • Jacksonville students punished for putting stripper pole in dorm
  • FEMA handling nearly 600,000 applications for help
  • Man who killed wife, niece, self also killed mother in 1971
  • Producer sues city over lead ball fired by Miami police
  • Tourism suffers across Florida after pummeling by hurricanes
  • Key dates in the life of Terri Schiavo
  • An excerpt from the unanimous ruling in the Schiavo case
  • Four confirmed dead after small plane crash in Panhandle
  • Correction: Disney-Cruise Line story
  • tampabay.com

    printer version

    Capital punishment critic says report plays politics with death

    By ALISA ULFERTS, Times Staff Writer
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published June 21, 2002

    TALLAHASSEE -- Abraham Bonowitz is suspicious of a new state report describing 23 inmates whose death sentences were overturned.

    "It appears that once again we have evidence that politicians are willing to use the death penalty -- the tragedy of murder -- to advance a political career," said Bonowitz, director of Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty.

    The report was done by the Commission on Capital Cases, led by state Sen. Locke Burt, an Ormond Beach Republican running for attorney general on a law enforcement platform. It concluded that few of the 23 inmates in question were actually innocent.

    Burt said it bothers him when death penalty opponents refer to innocent people released from death row. Some inmates were not retried because witnesses had died or because they were already in jail for other crimes.

    Such people are hardly innocent, Burt said.

    But lawyers who represent death penalty cases saythe U.S. legal system assumesthat a person is innocent until proven guilty.

    "One could technically say he is innocent until proven guilty again," said Mike Reiter of the North Florida Capital Collateral Regional Council, a state-funded agency that assigns lawyers to death penalty cases.

    "That's one way of looking at it," Burt responded during Thursday's commission meeting.

    But if anyone is playing politics with the overturned sentences, Burt said, it is the death penalty opponents. "The people who use these 23 cases to make a political point are ignoring the victims," he said.

    He rejected any calls for a temporary moratorium on executions, as Illinois has done, and said the report shows that the system works. "The premise is that because 23 cases have been overturned, the system is broken. I say just the opposite. It means we are looking at the cases hard," Burt said.

    Back to State news
    Back to Top

    © 2006 • All Rights Reserved • Tampa Bay Times
    490 First Avenue South • St. Petersburg, FL 33701 • 727-893-8111
     
    Special Links
    Lucy Morgan


    From the Times state desk