Editorial: Fix death penalty in Florida
The latest delay in the execution of Manuel Valle for killing a police officer 33 years ago shows how absurd the administration of the death penalty in Florida has become.
That's not to say the death penalty should be abolished; we think it still has merit. But years of delays in carrying out executions while the death row population mounts make a mockery of justice.
A meaningful limit should be placed on how long execution can be delayed unless significant new issues are raised.
But that has to be accompanied by a review of the whole death penalty process, as recommended by the American Bar Association. Florida, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, has exonerated more death row inmates than any other state since 1973. This year's mistaken abolition of the state Commission on Capital Cases, which was charged with reviewing the system and recommending reforms, didn't help.
If the state can't fix this system, the death penalty should be abolished.
Valle was scheduled to die by lethal injection Aug. 2 for the 1978 murder of Coral Gables police Officer Louis Pena, whose former wife and two children live in Lee County.
Monday, the state Supreme Court in a 4-3 decision stayed the execution until Sept. 1 and ordered a hearing on the new execution procedure. The state is using a new anesthetic as part of the execution protocol, and Valle challenged its effectiveness, worrying that he might suffer discomfort from the process.
The high court is micromanaging the chemistry of lethal injection. Lower courts wisely dismissed the appeal.
In April, Paul Flemming, columnist for The Tallahassee Democrat, a sister paper of The News-Press, found that the 393 inmates on death row had been there an average of 15 years, three months. The 69 who had been executed since 1979 were on death row an average of 12 years, nine months, from sentencing to execution. The most recent died in February 2010 for killing a wildlife officer in 1984.
Those mean justice delayed and denied for victims, their families and the inmate.
Pena's family has now asked six governors to carry out Valle's sentence. Their torture should end.