Rudolf Holton became the 25th man to walk off Florida’s death row after serving 16 years for a crime he didn't commit.
The attorneys who won Holton’s freedom work in the Tallahassee office of the Capital Collateral Review Commission, a sort of super public defenders office, which concentrates on death row appeals. The office will close at the end of the month in a cost-cutting move, and the state expects private attorneys to take over the role.
Larry Spalding set up the office in 1985. He thinks the governor is closing it because it exposed flaws in the system.
“It has embarrassed state government by having several individuals in recent years released from prison because they were wrongfully convicted,” says Larry Spalding, of the American Civil Liberties Union.
For the governor, it's all about saving money, more than $1 million a year by closing the Tallahassee office alone. Plus, he says it will speed up appeals that can drag on for decades.
“Everybody has the right to a lawyer and they'll get one through the registry, but we'll save money and we'll provide the same level of legal service or better,” says Gov. Bush.
Spalding doesn't think enough attorneys in the private sector will be willing to take on extremely complicated and time-consuming death row cases.
“Making it private doesn't necessarily make it better and I'm absolutely convinced it won't make it cheaper,” Spalding says.
And in a worst-case scenario, critics fear people could be wrongfully executed because the state didn't make sure they got the best defense.