Death row reform bill speeds through legislature

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Legislation to speed up executions in Florida is now speeding through the process.

The bill would reduce the number of years inmates spend on death row by speeding up appeals and letting the governor and Legislature review judges.

Florida's death row inmates spend an average of 13 years in prison before they're executed. Of the 406 inmates currently on death row, 155 have been there longer than 20 years.

"It should not take decades to deliver due process in these cases," Rep. Matt Gaetz said.

The bill would streamline the appeals process and force judges to make quicker decisions.

"When there is an appeal of a post-conviction motion, the Supreme Court ought to be able to rule on that within 180 days. Now we sometimes have years pass before we get rulings," Gaetz said.

The House and Senate versions of the death row reform bill passed committees this week. Democrats say the reforms need further vetting.

"This product, I think Ray Charles could see that it is defective right now," Rep. Darryl Rouson said, "that it is not complete right now. Yeah, Ray Charles."

"I love Ray Charles, but if Ray Charles were to classify my product that I brought before the committee today as defective, I would hope that he would be able to identify one defective piece of the product, not just merely classify it as defective," Gaetz said.

The legislation would also set up an oversight system for judges who don't rule quickly in death cases. The judges would have to answer to the House speaker, Senate president and the governor.

Earlier this year, a House committee heard a bill that would have outlawed capital punishment in Florida. It was quickly voted down.

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