Volume 3, Issue 44||
Friday, November 4, 2005|
Office of the Attorney General
PL-01, The Capitol
Tallahassee, FL 32399
Message from Attorney General Charlie Crist
Throughout the 1980s, in the heyday of South Florida’s “cocaine cowboys,” Florida suffered through an murder rate of 12.3 killings per 100,000 residents – almost four per day. In the first half of the current decade, our state’s murder rate has declined to 5.4 per 100,000 – still far too many, but less than half the murder rate of just two decades before.
This dramatic reduction in the number of murders can be attributed to many factors, including outstanding work by Florida’s law enforcement community and changes in America’s drug appetites. But I believe there can be no denying that another significant factor during those years has been Florida’s use of capital punishment as the ultimate deterrent to murder.
Florida’s capital punishment law is working. A relatively small number of men and women have been made to pay the ultimate penalty for heinous acts of depravity, and their punishments have sent a resoundingly loud message to other criminals that, when it comes to stopping murderers, Florida means business.
Recently the Florida Supreme Court suggested that the Legislature should change Florida’s capital punishment law in a way that would prevent judges from imposing the death penalty unless 12 jurors unanimously agree on that sentence. I respectfully disagree with the court, and believe such a change would weaken the death penalty law.
Under our current law, a jury must already make a unanimous decision before an accused murdered may be found guilty of capital murder. Every person on Death Row has been placed there as the result of a unanimous vote.
The change suggested by the Supreme Court would demand a second unanimous vote to recommend the ultimate penalty, even though it is the judge – not the jury – who makes the final decision on what the killer’s sentence should be. I believe this is unnecessary and would be counterproductive.
The Supreme Court points out that Florida is the only one among the nation’s death penalty states that does not require a unanimous vote of the jury when recommending the sentence. However, many of those states, as well as the Federal courts, allow the jurors to make the final determination, while Florida’s law leaves that decision in the hands of the person whose job it is to judge.
Had Florida law required a unanimous vote to recommend the death penalty, some of our state’s most notorious killers would have escaped the fate they deserved. Ted Bundy, who killed a Lake City girl and two Florida State University coeds in 1978, was executed even though the jury’s death penalty recommendation came on a 10-2 vote. A different jury cast the same vote in the case of Aileen Wuornos, the serial killer whose murder of six men in 1989 and 1990 made her the subject of the appropriately named movie “Monster.”
Other notorious killers whose juries were unanimous regarding guilt but not on a sentencing recommendation include William Cruse, whose 1987 shooting spree in Palm Bay claimed five innocent lives, and George Trepal, who killed Peggy Carr and attempted to kill six other members of her household.
This week I sent a letter to the President of the Florida Senate and the Speaker of the Florida House, asking them to join me in standing firm against any legislation that would weaken Florida’s capital punishment statute.
With all due respect to our state’s highest court, I believe the Legislature should not try to “fix” what is not broken.
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HURRICANE WILMA RECOVERY - As Floridians begin the rebuilding process in the wake of Hurricane Wilma, the Attorney General’s Price Gouging Hotline has seen a spike in repair and cleanup related complaints. Attorney General Crist advised Floridians affected by Hurricane Wilma to use extra caution when hiring workers to help clean up the damage caused by the storm, particularly when dealing with downed trees and damage to roofs and windows. Investigators from the Attorney General’s Office have mobilized to crack down on price gouging on items that are in high demand following a hurricane, such as food, water, hotels, ice, gasoline, lumber and generators as well as services related to hurricane recovery. (news release)|
MEDICAID SETTLEMENT - The taxpayer-supported Florida Medicaid Program will receive more than $4.2 million as part of a $124-million nationwide settlement with a Tennessee-based drug manufacturer, Attorney General Crist announced. The money will serve as restitution and fines from King Pharmaceuticals, Inc., a generic drug manufacturer. An investigation revealed that King Pharmaceuticals improperly reported prices for its products to the federal government, and those incorrect prices were used by the government to calculate rebates from King Pharmaceuticals to state Medicaid programs. As a result, taxpayers in Florida and other states were forced to pay a greater amount to maintain the Medicaid program. (news release)
COCAINE DEALER SENTENCED - After being prosecuted by the Attorney General’s Office of Statewide Prosecution, a Southwest Florida drug trafficker was sentenced to 10 years in prison. The drug dealer pled guilty to trafficking and conspiracy to traffic cocaine. Undercover investigators with the Lee County Sheriff's Office received several tips about the defendant, leading to him being arrested with approximately 5 ounces of cocaine and crack cocaine in his possession, as well as $1,000 in cash and other drug-related items. (news release)