Fla. Bill Bans Executing Retarded
May. 05, 2001
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) _ The state Legislature on Friday approved a ban on executions of mentally retarded prisoners and sent the measure to Gov. Jeb Bush.
The House passed the bill 110-1. The Senate passed the same bill unanimously in March. Bush has said he supports the measure, and has also vowed not to sign death warrants for mentally retarded prisoners, with or without the bill.
The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Richard Mitchell, lists no IQ threshold, but takes into account an inmate's intellectual functioning and behavior.
Nationally, the Supreme Court is considering whether such executions violate the Constitution's ban on cruel and unusual punishment. Of the 38 states with the death penalty, 13 have banned executing the mentally retarded.
The Florida bill, backed by prosecutors and the Association for Retarded Citizens, was approved by the House on the last day of this legislative session without debate.
``It's certainly incremental progress in changing attitudes about the death penalty,'' said Mike McCarron, executive director of the Florida Catholic Conference, which has supported the bill for several years.
Last year, the Senate passed the same measure, but it died in the House.
In the past, prosecutors sought to block the bill, but helped write this year's version, including a key change.
Prosecutors had complained that judicial proceedings would be slowed by the need for a hearing to determine whether each capital murder defendant was retarded.
This year's bill provides for such hearings after, not before, sentencing.
On the Net:
Florida Legislature: http://www.leg.state.fl.us/Welcome/index.cfm