There is something unseemly about delaying an execution because it conflicts with a politician’s fundraiser.
But that happened last month when the rescheduled execution of convicted murderer Marshall Lee Gore landed precisely on the day Attorney General Pam Bondi plans to launch her re-election campaign in Tampa.
According to News Service of Florida, Bondi’s office requested a delay without informing Gov. Rick Scott exactly why it was needed. Scott obliged, and the execution, previously scheduled for today, was moved to Oct. 1.
Last week, a Bondi spokeswoman offered little defense other than to say the fundraiser was scheduled before the state decided to reschedule Gore’s execution. But on Monday, as the story gained attention, Bondi issued a statement acknowledging the mistake.
“We absolutely should not have requested that the date of the execution be moved,” the statement said.
She is absolutely right.
Gore is convicted of killing two women in 1988 in Miami-Dade and Columbia counties. His execution has been delayed twice before amid questions about his sanity, and a relative of one of the victims has spoken out about the difficulty of enduring the interminable delays.
His 25-year stay on death row far exceeds the average 13 years inmates spend awaiting execution in Florida.
We understand the logistics involved in getting powerful political players to change a commitment to a certain date. But according to the New Service story, the decision to set the execution for today was made Aug. 13, weeks before today’s fundraiser.
But even if the change had been made just days before, the execution should not have been delayed.
The attorney general and governor typically need to be available on days when executions are planned to handle any last-minute legal maneuvering and to give the all-clear.
Scott on Monday dodged questions about the propriety of rescheduling an execution for a fundraiser. He said he didn’t know the reason for the delay, just that Bondi had asked for one and that he generally tries to accommodate such requests.
To her credit, Bondi took responsibility Monday. Nobody can argue that she is unfamiliar with a death sentence or that she is unaware of the emotional toll that delays inflict on relatives. As a prosecutor she put two people on death row, and she has participated in eight executions as attorney general.
She was an advocate for the state’s Timely Justice Act legislation that Scott signed into law earlier this year in an effort to minimize death penalty delays.
Clearly, this is a blunder that should never have happened.