Tackling wrongful convictions — will Bondi keep her word?

Last year, when Pam Bondi was in the throes of a cut-throat campaign for attorney general, she vowed to be a crusader for justice.

Specifically, she promised to do more than her predecessors about Florida's shameful record of wrongful convictions — a growing problem that costs taxpayers money and the victims decades of their lives.

With votes on the line, Bondi proclaimed her commitment to this cause on TV and in this very paper.

Yet, so far, the evidence of her making good on the promise is scant, particularly when it comes to a heinous string of wrongful convictions in Brevard County that the state has never properly investigated.

I clearly remember talking with her on a Saturday night late in August when she was preparing to go on Fox News and offer her full-throated support for righting these wrongs.

It was three days before the Republican primary. The race was a dead heat. And when Geraldo Rivera offered Bondi the chance to come on his show and talk about the cases, she seized it.

Bondi knew the basic details of the cases — that a fraudulent "dog expert" had helped convict dozens of people in Brevard County in the 1980s. Three of them had already been exonerated after spending a collective half-century behind bars.

Justice advocates were convinced others suffered the same unjust fate.

So Bondi, knowing that I had been writing about these cases, called to get the latest details. I was happy to oblige. With lives on the line, I was talking to any official who cared.

In fact, I had already secured promises from all of the candidates running for A.G. to look into the matter, if elected.

Bondi was one of them.

So, on that night, Bondi went on the air and assured Rivera and his viewers that, if she was elected, the investigation would commence.

I haven't heard one word about these cases since she was elected.

And I have asked every month.

This, my friends, is the plight of the wrongfully convicted.

Their cause is not sexy. Their lobby is not powerful.

The issue is generally one that most people don't care about — until it involves someone they know. Then, they can't understand why everyone else isn't outraged, too.

But wrongful convictions affect more than just those behind bars.

When the wrong person is convicted, the true perpetrator goes free. The public also spends money incarcerating the wrong person, and even more paying them back as penance in the rare cases when the mistake is proven.

Florida has recently started taking the issue more seriously, most notably with the creation of an Innocence Commission to study the systemic problems. With a dozen men exonerated in recent years, this big-picture approach is overdue.

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