State Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda Files Bill to Repeal Florida's Death Penalty

On the verge of the state's first lethal injection under the regime of Gov. Rick Scott -- convicted cop killer Manuel Valle is scheduled to be executed at 4 p.m. tomorrow -- State Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda of Tallahassee has filed a bill that would end executions in Florida.

Her reasoning behind House Bill 4051 is based on the chance that the state is possibly executing wrongfully convicted inmates, as well as the high cost of juicing people to death.

"It cost at least $51 million a year and over 30 years to arrive at the day of execution for Manuel Valle, who is scheduled to be put to death by what may be Governor Scott's first signature on a death warrant," Rehwinkel Vasilinda says. "With that $51 million we could put 850 law enforcement officers on Florida's streets, as well as adding more [Florida Department of Law Enforcement] investigators and equipment to our arsenal against crime."

And it's not as if Valle's the one clogging the backlog of those waiting to be executed -- there are currently 396 other people on death row in Florida.

More than two dozen of those prisoners have had an even longer wait than Valle, who passed 30 years on death row on August 4.

Currently, Gary Alvord has been on death row the longest, being sentenced to death on April 9, 1974 -- 37 years ago -- after being convicted of three murders.

In a statement from her office, Rehwinkel Vasilinda says she would rather see the death sentences be converted to life without parole:

Life without parole is a sensible alternative to the death penalty. Almost every state in the country now has life in prison without parole. Unlike decades ago, a sentence of life without parole means exactly what it says -- convicts locked away in prison until they die. In reality, it is much less expensive to keep a criminal in prison for life without parole than it is for the state to execute them. A sentence of life in prison without parole allows mistakes to be corrected or new evidence to come to light. That would increase faith and fairness in our justice system.

Then there's the Troy Davis angle. Every so often, someone's executed by a state, and it garners national attention because not everyone's convinced the person was guilty.

Instead of causing a televised debacle and a public's lacking faith in a state's choice to execute the possibly innocent, Rehwinkel Vasilinda says nay to the government's killing people:

One of the underlying questions in the debate about state-sponsored executions is what is the proper role and place of government? The appropriate question for state government is how do we keep people safe from crime in the most cost effective way? When you analyze the numbers, state sponsored execution is not the correct answer.

The text of the bill, which can be found here, simply repeals any provisions related to the state's death penalty.

"I'm not in the business of dispensing vengeance," Rehwinkel Vasilinda says. "As a state representative, I am in the business of making decisions to help keep Floridians safe from crime while spending taxpayer money prudently. HB 4051 will achieve both goals."

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Matthew Hendley
Contact: Matthew Hendley