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Toast to the Bay/Dump into the Bay: Two Bay area judges; Jim Frishe

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Toast: Two judges, some murderers (unfortunately) and death penalty critics

The death penalty doesn’t exist in Florida. At least not for now. And that’s a thing of beauty for the folks who don’t care for the policy much. Especially considering Florida is the second most murderous state in the nation in terms of capital punishment.

Two judges, Hillsborough Circuit Judge Samantha Ward and Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Michael Andrews, found consensus that right now, Florida doesn’t have a death penalty.

Last month, following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling striking down part of Florida’s death penalty law, Andrews refused prosecutors’ request to seek the death penalty in the case of a Pinellas Park man (monster if he’s indeed guilty) accused of shaking and striking his three month old daughter to death.

And then this week Ward did the same in the case of a 30-year old woman who killed both her mother and father in-law. She also sited the Supreme Court ruling.

“The United States Supreme Court held Florida’s capital sentencing scheme unconstitutional. This Court, therefore, concludes that there currently exists no statutory authority in Florida under which the State can seek the death penalty, nor this Court impose the death penalty,” Ward wrote, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

But despite that ruling, prosecutors have continued to seek the death penalty in capital cases arguing only a portion of Florida’s law was struck down. In the Pinellas case, they argued lawmakers would have time to sort out the language before the April Trial.

Defense attorneys in that case successfully argued that the ruling did indeed squash Florida’s death penalty law as is evidenced by the Florida legislature hurrying to replace it.

Two versions are floating. One in the Senate would require unanimous jury consent for both qualifying a case as capital and again to implement the death penalty. It remove discretion by a judge to implement the death penalty despite a jury’s recommendation to the contrary.

Another version in the House would simply require a 9-3 majority in favor of the death penalty.

Prosecutors support the latter, defense attorneys the prior.

It’s probably (if not certain) that the death penalty will make a resurgence in the Sunshine state, but these rulings and the judges associated with them will no doubt have succeeded in making the process a little less easy for prosecutors.

It’s worth noting, this issue could also have wound up in the “Dump” category this week if we had looked exclusively at the victims and their families. Without overlooking what may feel an injustice to them, we send heartfelt condolences to the families wrapped up in this legal red tape.

Dump: Jim Frishe

Jim Frishe has been in the race for Pinellas County Property Appraiser for about ten months. His opponent, Mike Twitty, has been in it for about six. Yet Twitty his out-raising Frishe by more than $60,000.

Twitty has raked in contributions in excess of $103,000 compared to Frishe who comes in just under $40,000.

That’s a huge gap even if Frishe hadn’t have had a four month jump. And to make it worse for Frishe, he’s a former veteran member of the Florida House of Representatives. That means he should have plenty of name recognition and gobs of GOP friends with deep pockets.

Twitty, well he’s just a first time candidate who’s managed to sack Frishe in terms of fundraising and support.

Frishe may have been doomed from the start. He lacks any real tangible experience to tout on a resume for Property Appraiser. He claims his experience in real estate qualifies and said he’s taken some classes along the way. Against some candidates that may have been enough.

But Twitty comes to the table with an entire career of property appraisal experience under his belt. Clerk of the Court Ken Burke, a prominent member of the local GOP, recruited him. And he earned an endorsement from the incumbent, Pam Dubov, who isn’t seeking re-election.

It’s worth noting that it’s not likely anyone would have run against Dubov had she decided to seek re-election instead of devoting more of her time to her church as a Deacon.

The numbers coming in this week couldn’t have felt good for Frishe. If he’s not considering hopping out of the race he’s got to at least be examining some pretty extreme measurers to remain competitive.

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email

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