TAMPA BAY TIMES –
LETTER TO THE EDITOR
I have represented people charged with or convicted of capital murder in Florida, including in Pinellas, Pasco and Hillsborough counties.
The gist of a Harvard University “Fair Punishment Project” study, which is critical of State Attorneys Bernie McCabe and Mark Ober in terms of their prosecution of the death penalty, is that McCabe and Ober are “outliers” when it comes to seeking the death penalty in capital cases — that they pursue death too often and in an arbitrary and unfair manner. That has not been my experience in litigating against both of these prosecutors. On the contrary, I have found that both seek death in only the most egregious cases and strictly within the parameters of the applicable law. In fact, they seek death no more often than most other prosecutors in Florida.
The study’s claim that people facing death uniformly are saddled with “a lack of adequate defense representation” is ridiculous. Tampa Bay
has some of the best capital defense lawyers in the state, and Public Defender Bob Dillinger’s office is well known for the aggressive defense of his clients. These offices are backed up by the highly regarded Office of Capital Collateral Regional Counsel. Furthermore, what does that complaint have to do with Ober or McCabe?
Within the past month, McCabe appeared before the Florida parole board in Tallahassee and spoke in favor of parole for an inmate sentenced to life who as a young person played a minor role in a homicide. That hardly seems like an overzealous prosecutor to me.
When I defend a person against the death penalty in the 6th and 13th judicial circuits, I know to come prepared because both Ober and McCabe will fight hard. But I have never known them to seek death in an arbitrary, biased or capricious manner.
Baya Harrison, Monticello