Editorial: Re-evaluate state death penalty

According to a study released Monday by a Columbia University Law School team, Florida has the most innocent people on death row in the United States. The study reports that state and federal courts overturned 75 percent of the 757 death sentences from 1973 to 1995. This is ridiculously high, and if this report is accurate, the state’s capital punishment judicial system needs a severe overhaul.

Florida executions have always received a great deal of media coverage, from the sheer numbers to the past use of “Old Sparky.” However, the Columbia study shows a horrible discrepancy in the judicial system of Florida.

Pinellas and Hillsborough are among the 10 counties with the highest number of death sentences in the nation, and five Florida counties ranked among 15 counties that deliver the most death sentences, according to the St. Petersburg Times.

The state’s death penalty is already under scrutiny by the U.S. Supreme Court. Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has not yet reviewed the report but canceled three executions in the past month alone.

The death penalty is an issue in itself for debate as to its effectiveness, but it is certainly not effective when, in a 22-year period, 75 percent of the people on death row are found to be innocent. While mistakes are certainly unavoidable, to have so many is appalling. When dealing with people’s lives, one mistake is one too many, no matter how minor.

Perhaps part of the problem stems from the system of judgment itself. In Florida, judges order death sentences instead of juries. Perhaps if a jury was reviewing the case, it might see something a judge overlooks, thus helping to decrease the number of innocent people on death row.

Whatever the problem is, it must be solved quickly, and the innocent should be given reparation for the time they unjustly served on death row.