Elections matter: Florida’s 13th Judicial Circuit
State Attorney Andrew Warren of the 13th Judicial Circuit, which is comprised of Hillsborough County, surprised many last year when he narrowly defeated incumbent State Attorney Mark Ober, who had been the chief elected prosecutor in Florida’s fourth largest county for 16 years. A former federal prosecutor, Warren ran as a supporter of criminal justice reform, vowing to lock fewer people up and send more addicts to rehabilitation instead of jail. During his campaign, Warren had also been critical of Ober for the manner in which his office sought the death penalty, remarking that Ober had received a “failing grade in a critical area of criminal justice.”
Nine months into his first year, Warren is choosing to seek the death penalty less frequently than his predecessor, and also choosing to drop the death penalty in some cases where Ober initially sought it.
Warren’s views on the death penalty were explored in a recent Tampa Bay Times article.
According to the profile, Warren has chosen to drop the death penalty in five cases where Ober originally chose to seek it. A sixth person facing capital charges cut a plea deal that allowed him to avoid the death penalty.
There are still 17 cases where Ober initially elected to seek death, and Warren hasn’t yet announced whether he will follow the same path.
“These decisions are the most serious and sobering decisions you make as state attorney,” Warren said. “And it’s different academically than it is when you’re sitting in a chair as the one to make the decision.”
Warren has said the death penalty should be applied “fairly and consistently and rarely.” He has also said he will not use the threat of seeking death as leverage to get someone to plead guilty.
Warren has chosen to seek death in one criminal case that occurred after he took office.
Warren previously pledged to reduce the number of juveniles charged as adults and increase the number of juveniles who receive civil citations, which keeps juveniles out of the criminal justice system.
“We need to do a better job steering juvenile, non-violent offenders away from the downward spiral of the criminal justice system,” Warren said while he was running against Ober. “We should be tough on serious juvenile offenders and always hold people accountable for their actions. But treating kids who commit minor offenses like adult criminals only furthers the revolving door criminal justice system. And it makes our neighborhoods less safe.”
He announced an expansion of the county’s juvenile civil citation program in July.