The Irish government is failing to take the necessary steps to ensure that their citizen facing a death sentence receives a fair trial in Florida, says the legal charity Reprieve.
Michael Fitzpatrick, whose first death sentence was overturned in June of last year, is facing a retrial in Florida – at which he still faces the threat of the death penalty. Reprieve, which is assisting Mr Fitzpatrick, has asked the Irish Government to attend a key hearing on 10 January, but they have refused to do so “due to limited resources”.
It is standard practice for government officials to provide extensive consular assistance to nationals imprisoned abroad, including attending hearings and trials to ensure that minimum standards are upheld.
At his first trial, Michael Fitzpatrick's defence counsel failed to present evidence of his innocence or to challenge the forensic evidence introduced by the prosecution.
Convicted and sentenced to death in 2001 for the murder of Laura Romines, Michael Fitzpatrick has always maintained his innocence. There was only circumstantial evidence against him, another man’s DNA was found under Romines’ fingernails and Laura told a paramedic at the scene that she was attacked by another man named Steve.
Maya Foa, Director of the Death Penalty team at Reprieve, said: “Michael has already spent more than ten years on death row because of a horrifically unfair first trial. The Irish government could step in to ensure that history does not repeat itself and yet they are refusing to do even the bare minimum. They must do more to help Michael, and they must start by attending Friday’s hearing.”