Mitch Perry Report 5.28.14: SCOTUS admonishes Florida slightly on the death penalty


Over the course of the past 12 years, the U.S. Supreme Court's rulings on the death penalty have limited its scope along the margins, and that's how you should interpret the high court's 5-4  ruling on Tuesday that  Florida’s I.Q. score cutoff was too rigid to decide which mentally disabled individuals must be spared the death penalty. But for those who believe in the ultimate form of punishment, no need to fret — this court isn't about to overturn the death penalty anytime soon.

The ruling sets aside what would have been another execution in the Rick Scott era, this one of Freddie Lee Hall, who is on death row for the rape and killing of a 21-year-old woman in 1978. Already there have been 13 executions under Scott's watch, the most in Florida history by a governor in his first term in office. But most people in the state are okay with that, so it's not controversial, and certainly not an issue in his bid for re-election.

The only time these days executions are controversial is when they are screwed up to the point where they embarrass everyone involved. Florida had those embarrassing moments decades ago, but Oklahoma has become the latest state to "suffer" from bad publicity due to a botched execution. That occurred late last month when inmate Clayton Lockett died of a heart attack approximately 40 minutes after the state began administering a new lethal injection. After he received midazolam, the first drug in a three-drug protocol, he began to nod, mumble, and writhe on the gurney, in what appeared to be a seizure. The state has stopped all executions as it investigates what went wrong.

But these investigations never really satisfy anyone, do they? Lockett committed a despicable act years earlier that put him on death row, and more than a few commentators on cable news freely acknowledged they had no sympathy for his pain. And for abolitionists, nothing short of stopping executions will be enough.

More than a third of the United States, 18 of them to be precise, ban capital punishment. But don't expect Florida to become the 19th. Methinks even a Democratic majority in the state Legislature would still favor the eye-for-an-eye approach.

In other news… Pinellas Congressman David Jolly is going to host a day next month for local veterans during which they can register their complaints about VA hospitals. One local vet isn't waiting that long to tell the press about his troubles at Bay Pines.

An overwhelming 89 percent of Democrats polled recently say they want Charlie Crist to debate Nan Rich before the August primary gubernatorial election, but Team Crist has nothing to say about that at this point. 

And the ACLU sent out a press release yesterday informing Floridians that Rick Scott's administration has spent more than $380,000 pushing bills that would force both state workers and those on government assistance to submit to urine tests to determine if they're taking drugs — a proposition that has been rejected so far by the courts.

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