Legislative Wrap-Up: On Innocence, Senate Leads While House Comes Up Small

Seth — May 11, 2011 @ 9:03 AM — Comments (5)

For sixty days every year, our nice little town of Tallahassee swells with legislators, staff and lobbyist, all here to debate and pass hundreds of pieces of legislation that affect all of our lives in ways we can’t imagine or even keep up with. IPF usually leads an effort to pass one piece of legislation each year that would help prevent wrongful convictions or compensate those who have been exonerated.

As we have noted before, this year Senator Joe Negron (R-Palm City) sponsored the Eyewitness Identification Reform Act (SB 1206). The Florida Innocence Commission voted to support the Negron bill which mandated that law enforcement agencies perform lineups in a double blind fashion, i.e. using an independent administrator who doesn’t know the identity of the known suspect. This made good sense because it would remove any opportunity of suggestiveness in the process. This is not to say that law enforcement officials want to be suggestive. But studies have shown that even those with the best intentions can give inadvertent cues. Thus, this is about methods not the intent of people.

The bill was moving swiftly in both houses until Rep. William Snyder (R-Stuart) decided that he was no longer supportive of the Negron bill in the House.  Snyder watered-down the identical House version of the Negron bill to remove any mandate, instead leaving it up to individual law enforcement agencies to come up with their own policies, while providing little guidance in his version of the bill on actual administration of lineups.  All the Snyder bill said was that these policies had to include a protocol for the “impartial and neutral” administration of lineups.  The problem, however, is that every law enforcement agency thinks the way they are currently performing lineups, which does not adhere to best practices, is impartial and neutral, mostly because they get who they think is their guy and they couldn’t imagine a scenario where they get it wrong.  Exoneree Alan Crotzer lambasted the committee and the law enforcement officials present for their opposition to the stronger Negron provisions.  But because Snyder was the committee chair, the rank and file members of the committee supported the change, even though a clear majority stated unequivocally to us that they supported the Negron version before they knew about the Snyder version.

What is interesting is that Snyder was for the Negron bill before he was against it.  In fact, he was the most vocal supporter of the Negron proposal in the Innocence Commission:

Just for the record, I was a cop for 32 years. . . . If we leave it to self-police, some will–like Palm Beach County–and some won’t.  They will never self-police, because it so easy to throw three pictures (at a witness). . . . So as long as we let people self-police, we will continue to have innocent people in prison.  If we want to really put a huge marker and change that, we have the opportunity by state statute to do it.  It’s hot now.  But in two years, five years. 10 years, 15 years from now, it may not be on the front burner.”

Truer words have never been spoken.  Snyder was simply stating the obvious, yet despite his previous, unequivocal statements in support, he derailed this bill once law enforcement got to him within the legislative process.  Maybe it is because he is running for Martin County Sheriff in 2012 and he didn’t want to burn any bridges that would hurt his election efforts.  Any way you cut it, it is just duplicitous.

With the Negron bill passing overwhelmingly in all committees and passing the full Senate by a 35-3 margin, we now had competing bills in both houses.  Something had to give.  Florida’s wrongly convicted spoke up in an open letter published in the Orlando Sentinel to the leadership of the Florida House urging them to take up the Negron bill and vote on it “as is .”  Victims of crime and law enforcement joined them in the call to pass SB 1206.

Yet it wasn’t enough.  Snyder, presumably with the blessing of Speaker Cannon, filed an amendment to Negron’s bill that would again water down the Senate version.  Senator Negron attached his eyewitness identification reform provisions to another bill dealing with the courts (SB 1398), which was then passed the Senate on the second to last day of session.  Snyder again filed the same amendment.  Because this change would have been unacceptable, the bills became irreconcilable.   Frankly, the constant amendments that the House knew Negron wouldn’t accept and that they knew would not do a thing to prevent misidentifications was just a cynical way to appease law enforcement and kill this bill.

Unfortunately, it worked.  On the last day of the session, the House was able to take up bills disciplining individuals wearing their pants around their rear ends, but they couldn’t find a few moments to help prevent wrongful convictions.  Nor could they find any time to pass Bill Dillon’s individual compensation bill, which also passed the full Senate.  Both bills died because of the House’s inaction.  The House even tried to nix funding for the Innocence Commission, but Senate President Haridopolos insisted on that money being in the final budget.

Where are our priorities?  Does the House leadership want us to leave the real perpetrators of crimes on the streets, while creating victims and ruining lives, and then paying multi-million settlements to exonerees?  Or would it just make more sense to put in place simple, cost-neutral reforms that save everyone the trouble up front?  The House was faced with this moral question and instead of taking bold, decisive action based on facts and evidence, they bowed to unreasonable, but weighty special interest groups; simply punting the issue for another day.

Senator Negron and Senate President Haridopolos stepped up and deserve a tremendous amount of credit.  They led on this issue, which is what we hope and expect our elected officials to do, no matter their political party or whether we agree with them on everything or even most things.

Let me say that eyewitness ID reform is the most critical but also the most difficult innocence protection reform there is.  While this outcome is disappointing, your support for this bill and your action at our behest was vital to get the bill on the cusp of passage in a legislature which was dealing with drastic budgeting issues and one which is generally not too interested in innocence issues.  We all should not lose sight of that.  We hope that next year with renewed leadership in the Senate and the House joining them, we will achieve these and other reforms, Bill Dillon will be compensated, and we will help prevent innocent people from entering our prisons.


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Comments and Pings on “Legislative Wrap-Up: On Innocence, Senate Leads While House Comes Up Small”

  1. The article is an outpouring from the heart, like late poet, actress, activist, Beah Richards’ (Beulah Richardsons’) words: “The last word has not been spoken.”. … “The last word has not been spoken.”

    Yes, the conflict of interest seems apparant, and this is not the first killed bill, nor the last word. Remember the juve justice bill stopped by the chair of the justice committee, the same prior “cop,” representative, future sheriff. It did not even get to the floor for a vote. The issue was later decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in Graham v. Florida and Sullivan v. Florida (October, 2009). South Florida, Palm Beach County, still makes its own rules regarding sentencing juveniles to life without parole, LWOP, (December, 2009), for less than death in the Dunbar case. “Death is the only way out of prison for them” said Circuit Judge Krista Marx, disregarding the Supreme Court ruling. Is this the democratic process? Do the wealthiest counties have the ticket to control the rules? Did the governor (2011) have input on the issues to lock them up and keep them locked up for bigger profits?

    “The last word has not been spoken.”…
    Graham v. Florida also see .

    Sullivan v. Florida

    Judge Krista Marx remark

    Beah Richardson’s Poem Pasted below – but this femme is unisex and ageless.

    A Black Woman Speaks. . .
    Of White Womanhood
    Of White Supremacy
    Of Peace
    It is right that I a woman
    should speak of white womanhood.
    My fathers
    my brothers
    my husbands
    my sons
    die for it; because of it.
    And their blood chilled in electric chairs,
    stopped by hangman’s noose,
    cooked by lynch mobs’ fire,
    spilled by white supremacist mad desire to kill for profit,
    gives me that right.

    I would that I could speak of white womanhood
    as it will and should be
    when it stands tall in full equality.
    But then, womanhood will be womanhood
    void of color and of class,
    and all necessity for my speaking thus will be past.
    Gladly past.

    But now, since ’tis deemed a thing apart
    I must in searching honesty report
    how it seems to me.
    White womanhood stands in bloodied skirt
    and willing slavery
    reaching out adulterous hand
    killing mine and crushing me.
    What then is this superior thing
    that in order to be sustained must needs feed upon my flesh?
    How came this horror to be?
    Let’s look to history.

    They said, the white supremacist said
    that you were better than me,
    that your fair brow should never know the sweat of slavery.
    They lied.
    White womanhood too is enslaved,
    the difference is degree.

    They brought me here in chains.
    They brought you here willing slaves to man.
    You, shiploads of women each filled with hope
    that she might win with ruby lip and saucy curl
    and bright and flashing eye
    him to wife who had the largest tender.
    And they sold you here even as they sold me.
    My sisters, there is no room for mockery.
    If they counted my teeth
    they did appraise your thigh
    and sold you to the highest bidder
    the same as I.

    And you did not fight for your right to choose
    whom you would wed
    but for whatever bartered price
    that was the legal tender
    you were sold to a stranger’s bed
    in a stranger land
    And you did not fight.
    Mind you, I speak not mockingly
    but I fought for freedom,
    I’m fighting now for our unity.
    We are women all,
    and what wrongs you murders me
    and eventually marks your grave
    so we share a mutual death at the hand of tyranny.

    They trapped me with the chain and gun.
    They trapped you with lying tongue.
    For, ‘less you see that fault—
    that male villainy
    that robbed you of name, voice and authority,
    that murderous greed that wasted you and me,
    he, the white supremacist, fixed your minds with poisonous thought:
    “white skin is supreme.”
    and therewith bought that monstrous change
    exiling you to things.
    Changed all that nature had ill you wrought of gentle usefulness,
    abolishing your spring.
    Tore out your heart,
    set your good apart from all that you could say,
    know to be right.
    And you did not fight,
    but set your minds fast on my slavery
    the better to endure your own.

    ‘Tis true
    my pearls were beads of sweat
    wrung from weary bodies’ pain,
    instead of rings upon my hands
    I wore swollen, bursting veins.
    My ornaments were the wip-lash’s scar
    my diamond, perhaps, a tear.
    Instead of paint and powder on my face
    I wore a solid mask of fear to see my blood so spilled.
    And you, women seeing
    spoke no protest
    but cuddled down in your pink slavery
    and thought somehow my wasted blood
    confirmed your superiority.

    Because your necklace was of gold
    you did not notice that it throttled speech.
    Because diamond rings bedecked your hands
    you did not regret their dictated idleness.
    Nor could you see that the platinum bracelets
    which graced your wrists were chains
    binding you fast to economic slavery.
    And though you claimed your husband’s name
    still could not command his fidelity.

    You bore him sons.
    I bore him sons.
    No, not willingly.
    He purchased you.
    He raped me,
    I fought!
    But you fought neither for yourselves nor me.
    Sat trapped in your superiority
    and spoke no reproach.
    Consoled your outrage with an added diamond brooch.
    Oh, God, how great is a woman’s fear
    who for a stone, a cold, cold stone
    would not defend honor, love or dignity!

    You bore the damning mockery of your marriage
    and heaped your hate on me,
    a woman too,
    a slave more so.
    And when your husband disowned his seed
    that was my son
    and sold him apart from me
    you felt avenged.
    I was not your enemy in this,
    I was not the source of your distress.
    I was your friend, I fought.
    But you would not help me fight
    thinking you helped only me.
    Your deceived eyes seeing only my slavery
    aided your own decay.
    Yes, they condemned me to death
    and they condemned you to decay.
    Your heart whisked away,
    consumed in hate,
    used up in idleness
    playing yet the lady’s part
    estranged to vanity.
    It is justice to you to say your fear equalled your tyranny.

    You were afraid to nurse your young
    lest fallen breast offend your master’s sight
    and he should flee to firmer loveliness.
    And so you passed them, your children, on to me.
    Flesh that was your flesh and blood that was your blood
    drank the sustenance of life from me.
    And as I gave suckle I knew I nursed my own child’s enemy.
    I could have lied,
    told you your child was fed till it was dead of hunger.
    But I could not find the heart to kill orphaned innocence.
    For as it fed, it smiled and burped and gurgled with content
    and as for color knew no difference.
    Yes, in that first while
    I kept your sons and daughters alive.

    But when they grew strong in blood and bone
    that was of my milk
    taught them to hate me.
    Put your decay in their hearts and upon their lips
    so that strength that was of myself
    turned and spat upon me,
    despoiled my daughters, and killed my sons.
    You know I speak true.
    Though this is not true for all of you.

    When I bestirred myself for freedom
    and brave Harriet led the way
    some of you found heart and played a part
    in aiding my escape.
    And when I made my big push for freedom
    your sons fought at my sons’ side,
    Your husbands and brothers too fell in that battle
    when Crispus Attucks died.
    It’s unfortunate that you acted not in the way of justice
    but to preserve the Union
    and for dear sweet pity’s sake;
    Else how came it to be with me as it is today?
    You abhorred slavery
    yet loathed equality.

    I would that the poor among you could have seen
    through the scheme
    and joined hands with me.
    Then, we being the majority, could long ago have rescued
    our wasted lives.
    But no.
    The rich, becoming richer, could be content
    while yet the poor had only the pretense of superiority
    and sought through murderous brutality
    to convince themselves that what was false was true.

    So with KKK and fiery cross
    and bloodied appetites
    set about to prove that “white is right”
    forgetting their poverty.
    Thus the white supremacist used your skins
    to perpetuate slavery.
    And woe to me.
    Woe to Willie McGee.
    Woe to the seven men of Martinsville.
    And woe to you.
    It was no mistake that your naked body on an Esquire calendar
    announced the date, May Eighth.
    This is your fate if you do not wake to fight.
    They will use your naked bodies to sell their wares
    though it be hate, Coca Cola or rape.

    When a white mother disdained to teach her children
    this doctrine of hate,
    but taught them instead of peace
    and respect for all men’s dignity
    the courts of law did legislate
    that they be taken from her
    and sent to another state.
    To make a Troy Hawkins of the little girl
    and a killer of the little boy!

    No, it was not for the womanhood of this mother
    that Willie McGee died
    but for a depraved, enslaved, adulterous woman
    whose lustful demands denied,
    lied and killed what she could not possess.
    Only three months before another such woman lied
    and seven black men shuddered and gave up their lives.
    These women were upheld in these bloody deeds
    by the president of this nation,
    thus putting the official seal on the fate
    of white womanhood within these United States.
    This is what they plan for you.
    This is the depravity they would reduce you to.
    Death for me
    and worse than death for you.

    What will you do?
    Will you fight with me?
    White supremacy is your enemy and mine.
    So be careful when you talk with me.
    Remind me not of my slavery, I know it well
    but rather tell me of your own.
    Remember, you have never known me.
    You’ve been busy seeing me
    as white supremacist would have me be,
    and I will be myself.
    My aim is full equality.
    I would usurp their plan!
    and plenty
    for every man, woman and child
    who walks the earth.
    This is my fight!

    If you will fight with me then take my hand
    and the hand of Rosa Ingram, and Rosalee McGee,
    and as we set about our plan
    let our wholehearted fight be:

    Beulah (Beaula) Richardson
    1951 (1920-2000)

  2. Pingback from Update: Reform Failed, Innocence Commission Funded & Danny Glover Hosts Fundraiser | Innocence Project of Florida.

    […] You can read a more detailed Legislative wrap-up here. […]

     May 13, 2011 @ 3:00 pm

  3. Because none of the higher-uppers has had to fight for their children or love ones, ( they just pay their way our ), they can’t imagine what pain and torture we endure and, could care less because it doesn’t touch them.
    When our love ones suffer, the whole family suffers also and the ones of us that are most penny less seem to suffer the most hardship. Because they seem to be deliberately placed so far from home, we are seldom able to visit, phone calls are limited because of the expense, and their accounts are always near empty.
    Should they ever have to stand in our shoes, I’m sure they would vote with more compassion for the innocent and concern for all

  4. Pingback from Innocence Commission Meets After Legislature Failed at Eyewitness ID Reform | Innocence Project of Florida.

    […] week a did a post-mortem on the legislative session, which mostly dealt with the unfortunate failure of the House to move […]

     May 19, 2011 @ 4:02 pm

  5. Pingback from The Florida Innocence Commission wrap-up of the 2012 legislature | Gateless Gate Zen.

    […] The Florida Innocence Commission wrap-up of 2012 Like this:LikeBe the first to like this post. This entry was posted in Politics, The Problem. Bookmark the permalink. ← WRAP UP: 2011 Legislative Session for the Florida Sheriff’s Association […]

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