Tallahassee, FL - 64-year-old Gary Michael Hilton was sentenced to death on Thursday.
“You are hereby committed to the custody of the Department of Corrections,” circuit court Judge James Hankinson said.
But once on death row, Hilton has a better than equal chance of dying of natural causes than lethal injection. During debate on adding more judges to Florida’s highest court, more than one House Republican justified adding the justices because of death penalty delays.
“There are people sitting today, waiting for justice to be delivered,” Representative James Grant (R-Tampa) said. “Victims who can continually be delayed because of a backlog inside the court.”
But it’s not true. The Commission on Capital Cases provided a list of 47 inmates who appeals are complete. All 47 are eligible for a death warrant any time Rick Scott chooses to sign one. On Friday he didn’t offer a timetable.
“We’ll be dealing with it this year I’m sure,” Scott said.
But even if Scott signed a black bordered warrant tomorrow, it would be futile.
Controversy over one of the three drugs used in the lethal injection has the Department of Corrections rewriting its procedures. It will be months before those are finished.
Former Supreme Court Chief Justice Harry Lee Anstead calls the effort to add judges political.
“The facts don’t back them up. The reality is that the court is super efficient,” Anstead said.
So while Gary Michael Hilton will die behind bars one way or the other, how he goes will have nothing to do with a Supreme Court that took too much time.
393 people are on Florida’s death row as of today. Because of delays, more died of natural causes last year than by lethal injection.
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