GOVERNMENT: LOCAL ATTORNEY APPOINTED TO FLORIDA SUPREME COURT’S INNOCENCE COMMISSION

Gainesville, Florida – On July 2, Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles Canady signed an Administrative Order that initiated the Florida Innocence Commission.  Twenty-three Florida legal professionals, including judges, legislators, prosecutors, law enforcement officials, professors and attorneys have been appointed to a two-year term that ends on June 30, 2012.   This diverse group of individuals was each appointed for their competence, experience and commitment.  Their stated mission is to conduct a study of the causes of wrongful convictions and to recommend measures to prevent such convictions. Gainesville Attorney Rod Smith of Avera & Smith is one of only seven Florida lawyers appointed to the commission.  Rod Smith is a well-known and respected civil trial attorney who counsels on select criminal cases.  He is also a former State Attorney of the Eighth Judicial Circuit and a former Florida State Senator. He has a deep understanding of the criminal justice system and its attendant issues.

The importance of the Commission’s work is demonstrated in a statement taken from Chief Justice Canady’s Administrative Order,” …the occurrence of cases in which the innocent are convicted and punished constitutes a grave injustice; and….requires a comprehensive examination of the causes of wrongful convictions and an in-depth consideration of measures to prevent the conviction of the innocent.”

Data on the Death Penalty Information Center and the Florida Innocence Project websites reveal that   nationally over 130 people have been released from death row with evidence of their innocence since 1973.  From 1973-1999, there was an average of 3.1 exonerations per year. From 2000-2007, there has been an average of 5 exonerations. In Florida, 12 individuals are cited as having been proven innocent after conviction and incarceration.  A review of the Florida cases reveals that a majority of the exonerations were due to post-conviction DNA testing.  It also reveals that many of those on the list spent decades, as much as 35 years, in prison for a crime they did not commit. Attorney Smith comments, “The work of this commission has strong implications for the way cases are prosecuted and defendants are convicted in the future.  Every effort will be         made to assure that no innocent person is or remains convicted of a crime. I look forward to working closely with the highly knowledgeable and accomplished professionals that have been appointed to this commission.”

Press release provided by Doug Perkins with LegalPR

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