The state of Florida owes Alan Crotzer a lot more than the $1.25 million he is asking for.
Crotzer, a St. Petersburg native, was charged by the state of Florida for a total of 10 charges with two of those being rape charges in 1981. The all white jury of his peers found him guilty on all 10 charges and he was sentenced to over 100 years in prison. Due to DNA evidence that found he was wrongly convicted, he was released in 2006.
Like a lot of young African American males aged 18 to 21, he had no means to afford proper representation for himself and was appointed a public defender by the court. He would have gotten the same result had he represented himself. According to Crotzer, he had to do all the important legwork that the defense attorney normally does to prepare a case, such as subpoena his own witness for trial and make sure they knew when to show up.
From his arrest to his conviction, the system that we as Americans pride ourselves on failed this man.
Currently, the Florida Senate is reviewing a bill (SB0012) that would compensate Crotzer for the more than 20 years of his life stolen from him by the state of Florida, according to http://www.flsenate.gov. This bill identifies Crotzer as a victim of a miscarriage of justice but yet the Senate has not come to an agreement on the bill in the last two sessions.
For those who don’t know, the Florida Senate meets one time per year from March until May, roughly 60 days. If the bill that would compensate Crotzer for spending 24 years of his life wrongfully imprisoned is passed this session, during its third attempt, it would have taken our elected officials two years to right a wrong that was done to one of the citizens that they represent.
The system failed Crotzer miserably and no amount of politics or Senate sessions will change that fact. My understanding of politics is that it’s a bureaucracy and that things take time, but how much time is needed to state the obvious?
During the Florida legislature 2007 regular session several proposed bills failed including bill number SB0012. Included in those bills that failed was the “Rosa Parks Act,” a bill that will offer pardons to those convicted of acts of civil disobedience during the civil rights movement.
There are some Florida legislators that want Crotzer to receive compensation, but our legislative system is a complicated one; a system that would prolong doing what is morally right just to go against the opposing party or to cater to lobbyists’ agendas.
With the start of the 2008 session rapidly approaching, the Florida legislature has another chance to do what is morally right in the case of Alan Jerome Crotzer.
By passing bill number SB0012, legislators will be honoring a modest request by Crotzer for a priceless portion of his life stolen from him and the pain and memories of wrongful incarceration.
Cory T. Beal is a sophomore newspaper journalism student from Pensacola. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.