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Death Penalty Recommendations Ignored

The reason, Paul Johnson still has the right to appeal his sentencing.

Governor Charlie Crist may have signed Johnson’s death warrant prematurely, but political pressure to speed up Johnson’s execution was mounting.

On January 9th, 1981, Paul Johnson, shot and killed a Polk County Deputy and two others.

He was sentenced to death for the murders, but the Florida Supreme Court is ordering a stay of execution, saying Governor Charlie Crist may have jumped the gun in Johnson’s case.

Crist signed Johnson’s death warrant even though the convicted killer hadn’t exhausted his appeals, but political pressure was mounting on the governor.

More than 2,200 people signed a petition asking Crist to sign the death certificate.

ACLU Attorney Larry Spalding doesn’t know why Crist was so eager but says politics should never taint such dire decisions.

“You shouldn’t react on emotional calls to do things. You react rationally and responsible and working within the system,” said Spalding.

A system many say is broken. Florida is the only state with capital punishment that allows a jury hand down the death sentence without a unanimous vote.

Three years ago The American Bar Association recommended changes to the system.

Mark Schlakman was one of eight lawyers working on the report.

The recommendations have been ignored.

“It is apprehension by elected officials as the possibility of being branded as anything but tough on crime, but these issues don’t go to whether one is tough on crime, they go to administration of justice,” said Schlakman.

More than 20 death row inmates have been exonerated since executions resumed in 1979.

Executions also come with a hefty price tag.

On average two death row inmates are executed in Florida every year, at a cost of 51 million dollars to taxpayers.

Life in prison for an inmate entering the system at 20 years old, costs an estimated 1.5 million tax dollars.


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