Thursday, February 5, 2009

Feb. 5: Give Jimmy Ryce's Killer His Punishment

By Sylvia Gurinsky

The pain goes on for Don Ryce, the father of Jimmy Ryce, the 9-year-old boy murdered in south Miami-Dade County in 1995. It's been only two weeks since Ryce lost his wife, Claudine. Now, Juan Carlos Chavez, who was found guilty of murdering Jimmy, has filed yet another appeal to his death sentence.

Enough. It's time for Chavez to receive his punishment.

His case illustrates perfectly what is wrong with the appeals process for those who have been sentenced to death in Florida. At taxpayer expense, these people can spend up to two or three decades on death row before they are executed. Efforts by both Florida voters and the legislature to speed up the process haven't worked.

After one such effort, the Death Penalty Reform Act approved by the Florida Legislature in 2000, the Florida Supreme Court issued a ruling overturning a good portion of it. The bill had serious problems - it would have lumped most appeals together.

The court ruling gives a good background of the problems with the appeals process, which include (naturally) politics and money:

Fixing this matter is going to require justices to sit down with lawmakers and hash out something that can meet constitutional guidelines - and respect the rights of crime victims and their families. Florida's judicial and political leaders need to do so, as quickly as possible.

Jimmy Ryce and his family deserve no less.

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