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Who's to blame for death row backlog -- governor or court?

Speaker Dean Cannon's proposal to create separate criminal and civil divisions of the Florida Supreme Court passed the House 79-38 on April 15, 2011, but not before Democrats and Republicans argued over an alleged purpose of the court expansion -- the handling of death penalty cases.

Republicans argue the expansion is needed to help settle death penalty cases more expeditiously -- 393 people currently are waiting on Florida's death row.

But Democrats say the appeals process isn't necessarily what's slowing down death penalty cases.

"The proponents argue that the Florida Supreme Court should be split because it will allow them to expeditiously resolve capital cases that have languished in the court," said Rep. Geraldine Thompson, D-Orlando. "The facts are the Florida Supreme Court has a capital caseload that is lower this year than last. The facts show that approximately 40 persons on death row have had all of their appellate review completed and await only the governor's signature on a death warrant to end the case.

"Perhaps the proponents should pass legislation requiring a governor to sign a death warrant within 60 to 90 days after all appellate review has been denied, if their concern is 'disposing' of death penalty cases."

PolitiFact Florida wondered if 40 people, more than 10 percent of the current case back-log, are waiting on the governor to sign a death warrant?

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