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Florida’s Innocence Commission Releases Final Report

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Florida’s Innocence Commission has concluded two years of work by releasing a final report of recommendations to eliminate or drastically reduce wrongful convictions in the state.

The Commission was founded in July of 2010 with a stated mission

to provide a mechanism to recommend to the Supreme Court of Florida solutions to eliminate or significantly reduce the causes for wrongful or erroneous convictions.  These solutions may include, but not be limited to, suggested rule proposals or amendments, statutory changes, or other procedural changes directly related to the wrongful conviction of the innocent.  The Commission brings together prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges, law enforcement, legislative representatives, and victim advocates, to work together as a collegial body to identify the common causes of wrongful convictions, and to recommend procedures to decrease the possibility of these convictions in the future.

The final report, submitted to Florida’s Supreme Court, is hundreds of pages long, with recommendations on issues ranging from false eye witness reports to reckless police work.

The downside is that many of the suggestions will be costly to implement. Some of the recommendations include:

  • More training for prosecutors and criminal defense lawyers
  • Higher salaries for state crime lab technicians who do DNA testing
  • Assistance from the state in the form of repayment of educational loans for law school graduates who go to work in the criminal justice system.
  • Police photo lineup changes, including the strong suggestion that the person administering the photos not know which individual is the suspect.
  • Pass legislation that requires police to record all in-custody interrogations.
  • Identify attorneys by name whose serious misconduct results in a conviction being reversed in appellate courts.

The commission was a 25-member panel consisting of legislators, judges, lawyers, law professors and law enforcement officers. Members included State Attorney Brad King and state Senator Gary Siplin.

Panel chairman Belvin Perry Jr., the chief judge in Orange-Osceola counties, says that the question is how you weigh the costs of the proposed changes. Is the cost of justice ever too high? Perry wrote,

Clearly, some of these recommendations will cost money and some may even argue the price of justice is too high. But the consequence of inaction is injustice.

henever one individual has been wrongly convicted we as a society suffer.

The establishment of the Commission and completed report are huge steps in the right direction  for seeking important improvements in Florida’s legal system. But the challenge now is to gain the political will and momentum to implement and finance the proposed changes in the pursuit of justice for all in the state of Florida.

Will the political cost of the pursuit of justice prove to be too high?

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