Two Innocent Men Previously on Florida’s Death Row Ask for Meeting with Governor Rick Scott


CONTACT:   ACLU of Florida Media Office, (786) 363 - 2737

 Miami – Today, Wednesday, May 15, two innocent men exonerated years after being condemned to death by the State of Florida are asking Governor Rick Scott to meet with them to hear their story, before he makes his decision on a bill to speed up executions and limit appeals of those on Death Row. For one of the men, had the bill been law when he was on death row, the result would have likely been his execution, despite the fact that he was innocent of the crime.

HB 7083, the so-called “Timely Justice Act” passed mostly along party lines during the 2013 Legislative Session, limits appeals and requires that when these limited and shortened appeals are exhausted, “Within 30 days after receiving the letter of certification from the clerk of the Florida Supreme Court, the Governor shall issue a warrant for execution if the executive clemency process has concluded, directing the warden to execute the sentence within 180 days, at a time designated in the warrant.”

Florida has the highest rate of people condemned to death and later exonerated, sometimes many years later, more than any other state in the nation. Twenty four innocent men were released, 8 of them after 10 years of life on Death Row. Had this bill been in place during their stay, they may have been wrongfully executed.

Seth Penalver was imprisoned for 18 years and under a death sentence for 13 years for a crime he did not commit. Only after 18 years was evidence uncovered that led to his exoneration. Seth, in Miami today, has repeatedly asked Governor Scott for an opportunity to meet face to face. “If Governor Scott would just sit with me and others like me, I know he will veto this bill that, if it had been law, would have ended my life - I am innocent. But if he signs this bill into law, I fear other people who are innocent like me, will be unjustly executed by the State of Florida.”


Innocent Men Previously on Death Row Ask for Meeting with Governor Scott

                  Wednesday, May 15, 2013

                  11:00 A.M.


                  Coral Gables Congregational United Church of Christ

                  3010 De Soto Boulevard, Miami (across from the Biltmore Hotel)


                  Speakers:              Rev. Dr. Laurinda Hafner, Senior Pastor

                                                      Seth Penalver, Exonerated after 13 years on Death Row

                                                      Herman Lindsey, Exonerated after 3 years on Death Row


At least 13 people currently on Death Row have exhausted their post-conviction appeals and gone through the clemency process. Should Governor Scott sign HB 7083 into law, he could effectively be putting them all to death without ample time and adequate assurance that they truly are guilty of the crimes they are accused of.

Juan Melendez was on Florida’s Death Row for almost 18 years for a crime he did not commit. A "lost" confession by the real perpetrator, which was in the possession of the prosecution, was presented some 16 years after his conviction. Melendez was exonerated and freed.

“Under the Timely Justice Act, innocent men like me would have been executed,” said Melendez. “No one knows how many more innocent people are now awaiting execution on Florida’s Death Row – and will be executed, if the Legislature places limits on their appeals.”

The Governor has fifteen days to act on this bill. Were he to sign it, he would be the Governor to execute more people during his tenure than any other Governor in Florida’s history. Two former Death Row inmates both of whom were exonerated have reached out to Governor Scott privately to ask for a meeting to plead their case. Ultimately, they would like the Governor to consider vetoing this bill that would increase the likelihood of killing innocent people.

“A veto of this bill does not abolish the death penalty; but a veto will hopefully reduce the chance that Florida executes innocent people. I was a supporter of the death penalty,” says Penalver. “Until I saw so many others like me, innocent on death row, who only wanted another chance to prove their innocence and ask the state to consider new evidence.”

In 2012 Florida led the nation in new death sentences and death row exonerations. Time to execution in Florida is already 18 months less than the national average.

The men are asking all Floridians to email Governor Scott and ask that he schedule a meeting with them.