Showing posts with label Florida. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Florida. Show all posts

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Florida and Voting Rights

At Huffington Post,  Thomas Kennedy notes that the state of Florida "is among the strictest of states" when it comes to "voter suppression, effectively imposing lifelong disenfranchisement to over 1.5 million people who were formerly incarcerated." He also notes that Governor Rick Scott "has exacerbated the problem" by "rolling back the policy of his predecessor. Scot, according to Kennedy, "holds a total of four clemency hearings a year, fielding requests by less than a 100 people each time." The result has been "a 20,000 person backlog that keeps growing and shows no signs of stopping." See full story here.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Where are Obama's Clemency Recipients From?

Top Ten States (and population rank) *

  1. Grants: 126 - Florida (4th)
  2. Grants: 82 - Texas (2nd)
  3. Grants: 52 - Illinois (5th)
  4. Grants: 40 - Virginia (12th)
  5. Grants: 40 - North Carolina (10th)
  6. Grants: 38 - Georgia (8th)
  7. Grants: 29 - Missouri (18th)
  8. Grants: 28 - Tennessee (17th)
  9. Grants: 26 - California (1st)
10. Grants: 25 - South Carolina (24th)

* sixty-five percent of Obama's 743 grants.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Florida: Pathetic Effort Toward Significant Problem

The Editorial Board of the Tampa Bay Times says Florida's clemency process "too seldom shows clemency." In addition, the State's Executive Clemency Board "is opaque in its workings" and should be "re-examined to ensure that deserving inmates have a chance to make a case for mercy."

The Board only meets four times a year (often enough to pose for a photo) and "approves a disturbingly low number of clemency cases." The Times reports Florida has "more than 98,000 inmates in its prisons," but the last three governors granted clemency only 38 times (Jeb Bush - 22, Charlie - Crist 13, Rick Scott - 3).

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Florida: Call for Pardon

Michael Giles
It is reported that "a major Republican donor" is asking Gov. Rick Scott to grant clemency to one Michael Giles
" ... a military veteran who was 26 in February 2010 when he became involved in a brawl outside a nightclub in Tallahassee. His supporters say he fired two shots after being pushed to the ground and only shot in self defense. But he was found guilty of aggravated battery with a firearm and sentenced to 25 years in prison, the minimum allowable under Florida’s 10-20-Life mandatory minimum sentencing law."
The donor is one Daniel Loeb, a billionaire  hedge fund manager, who is also described (in e-mails uncovered by the Orlando Sentinel) as "one of [the Republican Governor's Association’s] largest contributor[s]," a Florida resident that is "quite passionate about criminal justice reform.”

It is noted that the Giles case:
... has become a rallying point for groups looking to soften Florida’s mandatory minimum laws, but also for African-American civil rights groups hoping to change the state’s Stand Your Ground laws. Giles is black but did not use the Stand Your Ground defense in his trial. Sen. Dwight Bullard, D-Miami, publicly called for Scott to pardon Giles in March. 
See full story here.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Florida: Life Sentence

The Florida Courier has an interesting piece entitled, "Life Sentence." It being with some rather startling statistics:
More than 1.6 million Floridians - about 9 percent - cannot vote, hold office or serve on a jury, according to The Sentencing Project, a prison reform group. In most states, it’s less than two percent. Only two other states have that tough a policy. Twenty-five percent of Florida’s Black population - that’s 1 in 4 - can’t vote, even though just 17 percent of the state’s population is Black. 
In sharp contrast, in Vermont and Maine, "the currently incarcerated can vote by absentee ballot."

The piece then explains why getting such rights back, in Florida, "has become far tougher in the past four years." Governor Scott's administration has restored the rights of 1,534 nonviolent felons, but more than 11,000 have applied and are waiting. Unfortunately, the clemency board only meets four times a year and the application process requires "a five-year wait for less-serious felonies and seven years for others, along with an application form and, for each felony count, certified copies of the charging document, judgment and sentencing from the clerk of the county where the felony occurred."

Under former Gov. Crist, the Board "automatically restored the rights of nonviolent offenders who served their time." The result was 155,315 were restored in four-years Under Gov. Bush, "sentencing forms were not required of people trying to get their rights back, and there was no wait period for the less-serious felonies."

See more of this interesting report here.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Florida: Exoneration!

Cheydrick Britt Exonerated Based on DNA Test Results Proving Innocence 
Britt Served Over Nine Years for a Sex Crime He Did Not Commit 
(Tallahassee, FL)

On November 20, 2013, the State Attorneys Office for the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit dropped all charges against Cheydrick Britt related to a 2002 sexual battery. Britt’s convictions and sentence for the sexual battery were vacated and he was released from prison on September 24, 2013 based on new DNA test results indicating Britt’s innocence of the sexual battery and lewd and lascivious molestation. Thirteenth Judicial Circuit Court Judge Chet Tharpe signed the order vacating these convictions.

“I have been waiting for this moment for almost a decade. I always maintained my innocence and now the DNA testing has proven what I always knew to be true. Thank God for DNA,” said Britt upon his release.

The Office of the State Attorney agreed to postconviction DNA testing in this case on September 28, 2012, and the results showing that semen on the victim’s underwear came from an unknown male, excluding Britt as a contributor, were released on April 12, 2013. The DNA testing was performed at DNA Diagnostics Center, in Fairfield, Ohio. Local counsel, Charles Murray, Esq., and Melissa Montle, Esq. and Seth Miller, Esq., attorneys with the Innocence Project of Florida (IPF), worked closely with the Office of the State Attorney to facilitate the result on this case.

“I am thrilled that we were able to reunite Cheydrick with his family. We commend the State Attorney for taking an objective look at how these DNA test results impact the remaining evidence and pursuing justice in this case. This is a model for how prosecution and defense can collaborate to reach the just and right result,” said Melissa Montle, Staff Attorney with IPF.

Britt was wrongfully convicted for these offenses in May 2004. Britt spent over 9 years wrongfully convicted and incarcerated and is the 14th individual to be exonerated through the use of DNA testing in Florida since 2000.

The Innocence Project of Florida (IPF) is a 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to finding and freeing innocent people in Florida prisons. IPF worked on Cheydrick Britt’s case for free, including drafting key motions and facilitating the DNA testing. Bonita Springs, Florida attorney Charles Murray was lead counsel, representing Mr. Britt since 2008. IPF’s website is

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Osler on DOJ Hypocrisy

Over at MSNBC, Prof. Marc Osler has a wonderful piece entitled, "The Speck in Florida’s Eye, and the Log in DOJ’s." It notes:
For this administration to re-open the Zimmerman case, with all the resources that will take, would be the equivalent of pointing at the speck in Florida’s eye while ignoring the log in its own. While the Trayvon Martin case involved one tragedy, more than 5,000 African-Americans remain in prison under lengthy federal sentences under a sentencing regime which has now been rejected by all three branches of government. 
The piece then notes that "at this point, the only feasible way to fix this gross racial inequity" is for President Obama use the pardon power, or, more specifically, to "commute the crack sentences so that they are right-sized to the current 18-1 ratio."  See full editorial here.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Florida: War on Drugs?

USA Today is reporting on the case of one Michael Edwards, who was charged with selling $850 worth of cocaine to his girlfriend. Edwards passed up a plea bargain of 15 years - thinking she would not testify against him, indeed, she had signed an affidavit saying another man had sold her the drugs - went to trial and a 60-year sentence in exchange. At the time, Edwards was 31 years old. That was 18 years ago. His release date is 2044 (when he will be 81 years old).

Edwards' record was "smeared with convictions" but:
He wants the world to see who he is now: a Christian who has read the Bible cover to cover three times, a father who talks about the stock market with his adult son and a model prisoner with a file full of ideas: a mentoring network for children, jingles for the pool and spa business he hopes to run with his sister, and a product to sell downloadable engine sounds for electric cars ... Since October 1999, he has not received a disciplinary action. He has attended Bible studies and more than 20 educational and substance abuse programs. After Edwards earned above-satisfactory ratings for behavior, his classification officer wrote a letter recommending his release. "Inmate Edwards has shown himself to be a peaceful, outgoing, exemplary person who has overcome his drug addiction and is ready to re-enter society as a law-abiding citizen," wrote T. Smith, of South Bay Correctional Facility.
A former State Attorney says Edwards "has served way more time than the crime" and concludes that Edwards has "changed." USA Today notes:
The same month Edwards was sentenced, another Fort Myers man was sent away for 20 years after shooting his son-in-law seven times and killing him outside a bar. 
Edwards requested clemency in 2002 and in 2011. In 2006, Edwards managed get a resentencing  hearing before a judge. Later, an order said the Court was "sympathetic"but "unconvinced" that it had the power to "consider granting the relief." As for clemency, in Florida:
His chances are slim. Five applications to reduce prison sentences were granted in 2010, two in 2009, according to the parole commission. In the past two years, the commission has received almost 1,440 such applications. 
See complete story here.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Florida: Harry Davis Pardoned

Harry Davis recently stood before a three member panel and pleased for clemency. Davis told the panel that he needed a pardon in order to pass background checks to do volunteer work with children and to obtain a massage therapist license.

The 56-year-old Davis was a former basketball with Florida State 1974-8) and a second-round draft choice of the Cleveland Cavaliers (1978-9). But, in 1987 he was tagged with a cocaine trafficking conviction while vacationing in West Palm Beach. Davis then served a one-year sentence in the Palm Beach County stockade.

Now Gov. Rick Scott and the three-member Florida Cabinet have unanimously granted Davis a conditional pardon. If he is arrested again on drug charges, the pardon will be voided. It is reported that Davis will also try to get the conviction expunged.

PardonPower says "congratulations" and best of luck to Harry Davis! Go 'Noles! See more on this story here.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Florida: Forgiven!

The Tampa Bay Times has an interesting article one Larry Wood who, as "a young man" made "a couple of bad mistakes." Last week, he obtained a pardon from Gov. Rick Scott and three other senior state officials. In 1984, Wood was caught driving with a suspended license. He owed $150 in tickets. About a year later, he was arrested for the battery of his former wife. Both cases involved misdemeanors, but the criminal record has been with him for three decades.

Wood, a stonemason, stood before the State's Board of Executive Clemency and took responsibility for his behavior - his new wife by his side. The board unanimously granted a pardon, even though the Florida Parole Commission recommended his request be denied because of a DUI in Michigan and Wood's driving a snowmobile. He requested the pardon primarily so he could own a hunting rifle. The Times also writes:
The chronically short-staffed Parole Commission is straining under a backlog of 31,000 cases. About two-thirds of them are ex-felons seeking to have their civil rights restored so they can vote; the rest are in other categories, like Wood's. The Legislature in the recently ended session gave the Parole Commission an additional $350,000 so the agency can hire more people to reduce the backlog.
See full story here.

Monday, January 2, 2012

The Top Ten Clemency Stories of 2011

10. The West Memphis Three - The Three served almost 18 years before a plea deal allowed for their release. But, Governor Mike Beebe - one of the Nation's most steady dispensers of gubernatorial clemency - announced that he had no intention of granting a pardon. And he will only grant a pardon if there is "compelling evidence" that "someone else was responsible" for the murders the men were accused of.

9. 100,000 Application Backlog in Florida - The Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, a group which aims to have the State's Board of Executive Clemency "simplify" (and speed up) the application process estimates a backlog of 100,000 applications!

8. December Clemency - A study published by the author of this blog, in White House Studies, shows that 1 of every 2 pardons and commutations of sentence granted over the last 39 years has been granted in a single month: December.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Obama's Mercy

The Village Voice is covering President Obama non-existent clemency program with particular focus on the case of a 75-year-old former banker, Peter Stanham who sleeps on a bottom bunk in a room with 16 other detainees in a federal immigration jail. Stanham was given a nine year sentence, in 2006, for bank-fraud. So, for five years, his family has been asking Bush and Obama for his release, so he can be deported to his native Uruguay to live out the rest of his days. The judge supports the request (as do four former presidents of Uruguay and 400 others!) and the prosecutor does not oppose it, still ...

Drayton Curry is reported to be the Nation's oldest federal prisoner - at 92. He was sentenced to life in prison, in 1991, under a so-called "three strikes" statute. He has served 20 years, is in poor health, but has a good work record in prison. See full story here.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Florida: Waiting and Waiting and Waiting

The Miami Herald is reporting on almost 90,000 people "waiting to have their civil rights restored by Gov. Rick Scott and three statewide elected Cabinet members." Under new rules adopted in March, ex-felons must be "crime-free" for at least five years before their clemency petitions can be considered. In the case of certain classes of violent felons, the wait is seven years.

Interestingly, a new report by the Florida Parole Commission shows "that a released felon in Florida whose civil rights are restored is much less likely to commit a new crime than others in the overall prison population." More specifically, the study of 31,000 from 2009-10 and found that "about 11 percent of people whose civil rights were restored ended up back in custody" (as opposed to a "re-offense rate" of 33 percent overall). Put another way, "89 percent of convicted felons granted a second chance have not re-offended." See full story here.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Florida: Soldier Pardoned

The Miami Herald reports Governor Rock Scott has pardoned "a Gainesville soldier serving in Afghanistan who was convicted of driving on a suspended license." It is reported that Shawndale Goston "needed the pardon to pursue a career in law enforcement after getting out of the Army." Scott's vote is required for any grant of clemency along with two of the three Cabinet members who also serve on a State board. See complete story here.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Dave Diamond Talks Morrison Pardon

Dave Diamond, the man behind the eventually successful movement to land a pardon for Doors' lead singer Jim Morrison talks about the nuts and bolts of the matter and explains his view of the legal arguments as well in a recent interview.

See story here.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Florida: 100,000 Request Backlog!

The Palm Beach Post has some intriguing coverage of the story of one Desmond Meade, a law school student at the Florida International University who was homeless just five or six years ago. Although he was once convicted of aggravated battery and possession of a firearm, Meade is now president of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, a group which aims to have the State's Board of Executive Clemency "simplify" (and speed up) the application process. The group estimates a current backlog of 100,000 applications!

The Board consists of Gov. Rick Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and has recently changed the rules so that felons convicted of nonviolent crimes must wait five years before applying for clemency. Those who have committed violent crimes must wait seven years and those seeking restoration of gun rights must wait eight years. Pardon applicants must now wait an entire decade! See story here.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Jimmy Carter and Cuba. Again

The Wall Street Journal reports that 86-year old former President Jimmy Carter "arrived in Havana to fraternize with the Castros." The journal notes Carter as long "toiled to get the island's repressive military dictatorship more respect from the U.S." but, before coming home, he went on Cuban television "to argue for the release of the five Cuban spies known as 'the wasp network,' who are now serving time in U.S. prisons." The Journal deems this a "new low" for Carter (perhaps forgetting his 1979 release of the individuals who sprayed the House of Representatives with bullets and hit five members of Congress, a release which coincided with Castor's release of some CIA agents) as it "demonstrates complete disregard for the American criminal justice system" and increases "the nation's exposure to serious risk."

The FBI arrested Gerardo Hernández, René González, Antonio Guerrero, Ramón Labañino and Fernando González Llort in 1998, after three years of investigation. Says the Journal:
Hernández was convicted of conspiracy to commit murder in the Cuban Air Force downing of two civilian aircraft flown by Cuban exiles from Florida in 1996. Four Americans died. The prosecution also showed that the "wasps" had sought to infiltrate U.S. military installations and to discover unprotected points along the Florida coast where arms and explosives could be brought into the country.
After a six hour meeting with Castro, expressed doubts about the trial and conviction of spies. He also promised to speak with President Obama about a pardon. See story here.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Florida: Heavy Workload + Delay = Fun. Clemency Not!

The Miami Herald reports that Gov. Rick Scott has actually said that exercising the clemency power is not particularly "fun." On the other hand, the "most fun" thing, according to Scott, is having an impact on state policy. The Governor is also reported to have said that he feels "sorry" for people who "made mistakes when young" and that he "believes in forgiveness." The evidence?
One of his first decisions as head of the Board of Executive Clemency to end the automatic restoration of voting and other civil rights for thousands of non-violent felons who have completed their sentences. That will increase the board's workload and delay decisions in those cases. 
See story here.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Florida: Nothing is Automatic!

The Board of Executive Clemency in the State has, in a 4-0 decision, rolled back state rules enacted just four years ago (under Charlie Christ) which had the effect of allowing more than 100,000 ex-felons to vote in 2008. Under the new rules, nonviolent offenders will have to wait five years after the conclusion of their sentences to apply for restoration of their civil rights. Violent offenders will have to wait at least seven years. A spokesperson for the State's Attorney  General says there is "philosophical" opposition to the "concept of automatic restoration of civil rights."  Critics, however, complain that the policy will "suppress" vote turnout. See story here and here.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Florida: Too Early in the Term for Mercy

The St. Petersburg Times is featuring a story by Steve Bousquet entitled "Dispensing tough love at the Clemency Board" which covers Governor Rick Scott's first day as Board chair, sitting "in judgment of his fellow man." The Governor is joined by the State's Attorney General and others, but Bousquet says the Governor's vote is "more powerful than any of the others" since "he must be on the prevailing side." The meeting seems to have been best summarized in this sentence:
Time and again Thursday, the panel rejected petitions for clemency, even in cases where the Florida Parole Commission staff recommended approval.
Bousquet says the Board "asked tough questions and dispensed tough love" and the view that "everybody deserves a second chance" was "nowhere in sight." See story here.

blogger templates | Make Money Online