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Florida ramping up death penalty warrant signings

TALLAHASSEE, Fla., May 20 (UPI) — Florida Gov. Rick Scott has ramped up execution orders of late, approving three death penalty warrants in less than a month, officials said.

Scott signed off on only six death penalty warrants in the first three years of his term.

Critics say the governor is trying to burnish his law-and-order credentials ahead of his re-election bid next year. Scott’s office denied the charge, saying he’d done nothing out of the ordinary and that all three of the cases were at the appropriate legal stage for the governor to set an execution date.

“In the past, governors wouldn’t do multiple warrants at a time. It was a much more orderly process than this,” said Martin McClain, a lawyer who has defended many Florida death row inmates. “It appears that every 10 days, Gov. Scott is signing a death warrant.”

Florida, one of 33 states that allows the death penalty, has the largest number of death row inmates of any state besides California — 405 condemned prisoners. The Death Penalty Information Center told The Miami Herald Florida leads the nation in death row exonerations, with 24 execution orders abandoned.

Critics charged Scott’s rapid warrant signings increase the likelihood an innocent suspect is put to death.

Scott’s legal counsel, Peter Antonacci, a seasoned criminal prosecutor at the local and state level, said there was nothing unusual about signing death warrants in these three cases — all of which are at least 20 years old.

“These cases tend to be among the oldest,” he said. “That’s the way the process has worked.”

The first of the inmates scheduled to be executed is Elmer Carroll, who was convicted of raping and killing a 10-year-old girl in Apopka, Fla., in 1990. The other two inmates whose execution Scott approved are William Van Poyck and Marshall Lee Gore.

Copyright 2013 United Press International, Inc. (UPI).

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