St. Petersburg Times Online: News of Florida
TampaBay.com
Place an Ad Calendars Classified Forums Sports Weather
  • Hands off lands funds, Bush says
  • Bankers Insurance criticized
  • Senate approves bill to spare retared inmates' lives
  • A lesson in peace and geography
  • Gov. Bush signs bill to close autopsy photos
  • Senate okays $47.8-billion budget plan
  • Viagra an issue as high court debates abortion for poor
  • Negativity again attends Black College Reunion
  • Legislature 2001

  • 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

    Senate approves bill to spare retared inmates' lives

    The House has a similar bill, and Gov. Jeb Bush says he supports the measures.

    ©Associated Press

    © St. Petersburg Times, published March 30, 2001


    TALLAHASSEE -- The state Senate unanimously passed a bill Thursday to ensure that mentally retarded prisoners are not executed.

    The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Richard Mitchell, D-Jasper, passed 40-0 with no debate.

    The measure does not contain a set IQ level, but uses a definition that considers intellectual functioning and behavior.

    The Senate passed the same measure last year, but it did not clear the House.

    A similar version is moving again this year in the House, and Gov. Jeb Bush has said he supports the measures, which also are backed by prosecutors and the Association for Retarded Citizens.

    The legislation comes as the courts and some legislatures around the country are moving to limit executions of mentally retarded murderers.

    On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court announced it would decide whether the execution of mentally retarded murderers meant that such executions should be deemed unconstitutional as "cruel and unusual punishment" in violation of the Eighth Amendment.

    The case of North Carolina death row inmate Ernest P. McCarver, with an IQ of 67, will be argued next fall.

    Experts say about 10 percent of the 3,600 prisoners on death row are mentally retarded, meaning they have IQ scores of less than 70.

    Twelve years ago, the last time the Supreme Court considered the question, only two states with the death penalty, Georgia and Maryland, barred execution of the retarded. Since then, 11 more states have rejected the death penalty for retarded killers, and Florida is among the other states that are considering legislation to do so.

    In Florida, prosecutors opposed such bills, but they helped write this year's version with a key change, said Jerry Blair, the state attorney in Live Oak and vice president of the Florida Prosecuting Attorneys Association.

    Previously, prosecutors were worried that the system would be slowed by the need for every capital murder defendant to seek a hearing on whether he or she was retarded.

    This year's bill would have defendants who are sentenced to death seek such a determination after sentencing instead of beforehand.

    "Now it's a safety net at the back end that will ensure that we do not execute the mentally retarded," Blair said.

    Even if no law reaches him, Bush has vowed not to sign death warrants for mentally retarded prisoners.

    "He might not, but could there be another (governor) in the future that may?" asked Mitchell.

    Mitchell said mentally retarded killers have to be imprisoned but often don't understand what they've done.

    "I'm not saying they are not responsible for their actions," Mitchell said. But he said the death penalty is the ultimate penalty, and mentally retarded killers don't have the level of understanding of their crimes to warrant that, he said.

    - The New York Times contributed to this report.

    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