The Florida Bar

Florida Bar News

Measure would allow state attorneys to bring motions to vacate based on evidence of innocence

Senior Editor Top Stories
Sen. Aaron Bean

Sen. Aaron Bean

Newly filed bills would allow prosecutors to file a motion to vacate a judgment when they believe a defendant has been wrongfully convicted.

Sen. Aaron Bean, R-Jacksonville, filed SB 1200 on December 8. Rep. Mike Gottlieb, D-Sunrise and an attorney, filed a companion, HB 653, on September 17.

Neither bill has received a hearing ahead of the 60-day session that convenes January 11.

Jude Faccidomo, president of the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, praised the proposal, calling wrongful convictions “a sad reality of our justice system.”

“They arise out of a variety of uncontrollable variables — implicit bias, ineptitude, human error, misconduct,” he said. “This bill creates an avenue to right wrongs. It is a simple, common sense approach that is absolutely essential.”

SB 1200 would create Section 925.13, “Motion to vacate based on evidence of innocence.”

It would require a prosecutor from the same agency that originated the charges to file a motion in the court where the defendant was convicted.

Among other things, it would require the court to schedule a hearing within 90 days and grant the motion “if the court finds there is clear and convincing evidence of actual innocence.”

The measure would also require prosecutors to “notify the victim or the victim’s family of all court dates, who each have the right to be heard at a hearing to address the motion filed.”

Second Judicial Circuit State Attorney Jack Campbell, stressing that he was speaking only for himself, sees nothing objectionable in the proposed legislation.

“I don’t see anything that bothers me,” Campbell said.

However, Campbell fails to see a pressing need.

He noted that last month, Fifth Circuit State Attorney William Gladson convinced a circuit court to clear the “Groveland Four,” four black defendants who were wrongfully convicted of rape in the 1940s.

“I think most prosecutors that I’ve worked with in my career would know to do that,” Campbell said. “It’s just what we do.”

News in Photos