February 17, 2012
Today, the Florida House Subcommittee on Civil Justice passed HB 141, which provides financial relief for William Dillon, who was wrongfully incarcerated for 27 years for a murder he did not commit. Mr. Dillon was exonerated by a court after DNA testing proved his innocence. The Senate version of the claims bill for Mr. Dillon passed earlier in the session.
The following statement on the bill and its implications for the criminal justice system in Florida is from Benétta Standly, Director of the Northwest Regional Office of the ACLU of Florida:
“In advancing the compensation bill for the wrongfully-incarcerated William Dillon today, the House committee acknowledged that Florida’s sentencing system is broken not two days after the state executed a man. The dissonance is alarming: the state simultaneously admits that innocent people get convicted for murder, and carries on with its broken death penalty system as though nothing is wrong.
“With over 100,000 individuals incarcerated in Florida and nearly 400 on death row, we have to wonder how many other William Dillons there are and for how many of them justice might come too late or never at all.
“While it is gratifying to see the legislature taking steps to do right by a man robbed of 27 years of freedom, more needs to be done to ensure that it never happens again. The legislature should take real action to address the flaws in our criminal justice and death penalty system by repealing judicial discretion in overriding death sentences, fully funding and ensuring access to post-conviction counsel for persons on death row eligible for appeals and standardizing eyewitness identification procedures for law enforcement agencies statewide.”