Death Penalty Dilemma

In November 2011, renowned capital punishment attorney Mark Olive told a symposium about a crisis in Florida.

"There's a crisis in the state with respect to representation," said Olive.

Olive now has a representation crisis of his own.

The Florida Supreme Court is forcing Olive and two others, against their will, to represent William Van Poyck, Van Poyck is scheduled to die June 12th.

The problem, Olive hadn’t met Van Poyck until a week ago, and he knows little about the case. He asked to withdraw or have more time. The court said no. It also refused to let Sandy D’Alemberte intervene on Olive’s behalf.

"It just doesn't seem right to execute someone who doesn't have a lawyer. And when you have lawyers who are telling the court that they're not able to perform that is the moral equivalent of not having a lawyer," said D’Alemberte.

The idea of forcing over worked lawyers to represent someone has the legal community in an uproar.

"Mark is being asked to stand there and pretend like he's acting as a lawyer in order to legitimatize this execution," said Steve Hanlon.

Now comes the biggest irony. In this opinion issued Thursday, this court told the lower court that it was wrong when it refused to let overworked public defenders limit their caseloads.

Florida has executed 75 people since 1979. During the same period, 24 other death row inmates have been exonerated.

Critics of Florida's death penalty have said the ratio between executions and exonerations means that the state only gets it right 3 out of 4 times.