Florida Lawmaker Pushes to Repeal Death Penalty

Troy Davis was a convicted cop killer condemned to the death penalty. Last week, Georgia carried out that very sentence over a public outcry Davis was an innocent man. Many of the witnesses who testified against him later recanted.

"There was not enough to go forward with that execution," said Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel-Vasilinda, D-Tallahassee.

Due in no small part to the Davis execution, Florida democratic Rep. Rehwinkel-Vasilinda has filed a bill to abolish the death penalty.

In her view, even given advances in DNA technology, many times it's impossible to prove guilt beyond any doubt, and beyond that a death row inmate can cost taxpayers millions of dollars in court fees as the appeals process drags on.

"I'm thinking that a better way to spend our money, instead of $51 million a year on death penalty appeals and all that sort of thing, we could put that money to better use in law enforcement, investigation and equipment," she said.

Florida has a unique affinity for capital punishment, having become the first state to perform an execution after the Supreme Court reauthorized it back in the early 1970s. Even today, Tallahassee's republican leaders are unabashedly tough on crime, and the death penalty's a key part of that philosophy.

If would-be criminals know they could be executed, they may be less inclined to commit a crime, but Peter and Rosemary Thomas disagree. They're vacationing in Florida from Great Britain, where the death penalty went away 50 years ago.

"In some ways, putting a person in prison for the rest of his or her natural is more of a punishment than a very quick execution, because they can reflect on what they've done."

For those who may not have done anything, they'd have a chance at being exonerated, but only if enough people agree it's time to put capital punishment itself to death.

This is Vasilinda's second attempt to repeal the death penalty. Her first attempt failed last spring in the House.

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