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Gillum Vows To Suspend, Review Death Penalty In Florida

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Saying "justice delayed is not justice denied," Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, told CBS Miami if he is elected governor he would suspend the use of the death penalty in Florida until he could be certain there was no bias in the system.

"I don't believe [the death penalty] is applied fairly," said Gillum, one of five candidates vying to become the Democratic nominee for governor this year.

He said he would refuse to sign death warrants "until we can come up with some answers as to why it is there seems to be in this state a racial bias when it comes to the application of the death penalty."

"I believe that we ought to have an in-depth analysis on why it is that in cases where the defendant is a person of color," he added, "that it appears … even in cases of similar crimes being committed between a white defendant and a black defendant, black defendants are more likely to receive the death penalty."

Gillum has previously said he would also seek to suspend the state's Stand Your Ground law. This was the first time, however, he suggested using the power of the governor's office to stymie executions.

"I am not a death penalty opponent," Gillum said, noting he disagreed with Orange-Osceola County State Attorney Aramis Ayala who made headlines when she said she would not prosecute death penalty cases. In response, Governor Rick Scott took all of the possible death penalty cases away from her office and re-assigned them to other offices. Gillum said disagreed with how both Scott and Ayala handled the situation. (Ayala recently endorsed Gillum.)

"Where we agree is that we both know, as do a lot of researchers in this state and those nationally who have observed the application of the death penalty in this state, we know there is bias in the system," he said. "We need to figure that out."

He said he did not know how long that review would take.

"We've got brilliant minds and we've got brilliant partners in organizations all around this state that can aid us in getting to the bottom of this," he said. "There was a very good strong report done by the Sarasota Herald Tribune about a year and a half ago that talked about the bias on the bench."

Gillum is likely to be criticized by victim advocates and the families of murder victims who are waiting to see their loved ones killer executed.

"Well first of all, justice delayed is not justice denied," he said. "Justice will be had here. But you've got to ensure that when it comes to taking the life of another living breathing human being that we have to be absolutely certain that we don't have bias in the system."

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