Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi repeatedly apologized Tuesday for her decision to ask that the execution of a convicted killer be delayed because it conflicted with a campaign fundraiser.
Bondi's remarks were the first time the Republican has publicly answered questions about her request to Gov. Rick Scott that he push back the execution of Marshall Lee Gore by three weeks.
"I should not have moved it," Bondi said. "I'm sorry and it will not happen again."
The attorney general's office plays a pivotal role in executions. It represents the state in death row appeals cases. Usually the attorney general remains available on the date of the executions in case of any last-minute legal issues.
During a brief session with reporters, Bondi said she was wrong and sorry three times.
But Bondi's office is refusing to answer certain questions about the decision to move the execution date, including who on Bondi's staff made the request to the Republican governor's office — and who from the Bondi campaign told her office about the date conflict.
Bondi did say on Tuesday that her staff knew the reason for the need to delay the execution date.
Bondi's office, in a response to a public records request from The Associated Press, maintains there was no correspondence or email exchanged by Bondi, her chief of staff, her executive staff, or the division that handles death row appeals concerning the need to reschedule Gore's execution date.
Gore was originally scheduled to die by lethal injection on Sept. 10, but Scott last month pushed back the date to Oct. 1. Gore's execution had been scheduled twice before this year but he received a stay amid ongoing questions over his sanity.
When the latest date change was announced, it was not initially known that it was done to accommodate a Bondi campaign event scheduled for the same night.
Scott said he changed the date at Bondi's request, but he acknowledged earlier this month that he did not know that the reason was that it conflicted with the fundraiser scheduled in Tampa.
Bondi worked for the Hillsborough County state attorney before she ran for attorney general in 2010. This summer she opened her campaign account for a second term. So far she has no declared opponent.
Democrats have started to hammer Bondi over her decision to seek a delay in Gore's execution.
Allison Tant, chairman of the Florida Democratic Party, said Tuesday that Bondi's apology was "too little too late."
"She knew this was an incredible violation of her duty to the public, and went through with the fundraiser despite the public outcry. Her actions raise serious questions about her judgment and her priorities," Tant said in a statement. "Pam Bondi is only sorry she got caught."
Gore was convicted of the March 11, 1988, killing of Robyn Novick, a 30-year-old exotic dancer whose naked body was found in a rural part of Miami-Dade County, partly covered by a blue tarpaulin. Gore was also sentenced to die for the slaying in January 1988 of Susan Roark, whose body was found a few months later in Columbia County in northern Florida.
In addition to the two death sentences, Gore was given seven life sentences plus another 110 years in a case involving the attempted murder of a third woman.
The woman, an exotic dancer, testified during the trial for the Novick killing that she was beaten with a rock; choked, raped and stabbed; and left near the spot where Novick's body was found. The woman was attacked two days after Novick disappeared. Novick had been stabbed and strangled.
Gore's attorneys have argued before that he is mentally ill. One previous lawyer claimed Gore was "mentally deranged" and not responsible for his actions. But several judges concluded he was using a claim of mental illness to manipulate the judicial process.