Beliefnet

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - With Florida's electric chair under legal attack, state lawmakers convened in special session Wednesday to consider legislation giving condemned inmates the option of lethal injection.

Executions in Florida came to a halt when the U.S. Supreme Court agreed in November to review whether the state's electric chair amounts to cruel and unusual punishment. Switching to lethal injection would allow Republican Gov. Jeb Bush to resume signing death warrants.

Lethal injection was expected to have wide support in the GOP-controlled Legislature.

However, the governor has said he wouldn't consider a new method of execution without an accompanying effort to speed up death appeals, and the Legislature is expected to take up that issue, too, during the three-day special session.

Of 38 states with capital punishment, only four require death by electrocution.

The Supreme Court agreed to the review after flames erupted from the headpiece of one inmate and another condemned man suffered a nosebleed in the electric chair.

Bush wants the average time on death row reduced to five years from a current average of more than 10.

Opponents are concerned that imposing time or numerical limits on appeals would lead to the execution of innocent inmates. Others questioned the constitutionality of such limits as an intrusion on the powers of the judicial branch.

One proposed piece of legislation calls for only one appeals court review. After Attorney General Bob Butterworth expressed concern, lawmakers planned amendments allowing appeals based on new evidence.

The bills to be considered during the special session also include time limits on the filing of appeals and a dual-track system to simultaneously file appeals instead of waiting until one is done to file another.

The last man to be executed in Florida, Allen Lee Davis, bled all over himself when he was put to death July 8. Photographs of his corpse with a contorted face contributed to a public outcry.




Copyright 1999 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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