TALLAHASSEE — Attorney General Pam Bondi on Tuesday publicly apologized for causing the delay of an execution that was the same evening as her re-election campaign kickoff fundraiser in Tampa.
Bondi's statement, on its face, may also run counter to the oath she took as an attorney — though it's an oath that goes largely unenforced.
At Bondi's request, Gov. Rick Scott delayed the execution of convicted murderer Marshall Lee Gore from Sept. 10 until Oct. 1.
Bondi, a Republican and former Hillsborough County prosecutor, spoke to reporters for the first time about the incident after Tuesday's Cabinet meeting. The first question was about the execution's postponement.
The state's chief law enforcement official paused before answering, speaking at times with a slight tremble in her voice.
“I should not have requested the execution be moved. It had been (delayed) twice,” she said.
“And just so you know, (Gore) has filed another motion this past Friday, asking that it be (delayed) once again. And we are fighting that,” Bondi said.
“But I should not have moved it,” she added. “I'm sorry. And it will not happen again. Next question.”
Pressed for more information, Bondi said her staff “absolutely” knew the reason for the change of date. When asked to confirm that reason, conflicting as it did with her fundraiser, she declined to answer and instead said, “Next question.”
Bondi was further asked if she thought the episode had hurt her image as someone who speaks up for crime victims. Bondi looked straight ahead.
“I made a mistake. I'm sorry. It won't happen again,” she said. “I asked that a killer's (execution) date be changed and he was given 20 more days. And it won't happen again. I'm sorry.”
A spokeswoman hovering next to her shouted, “Final question.”
When asked who made the request to delay the date, Bondi replied, “You can talk to my communications director.”
The oath that all lawyers take before admission to the Bar states in part, “I will never … delay anyone's cause for lucre or malice.”
Florida attorneys also are governed by a set of legal ethics known as Rules of Professional Conduct. The rules are posted on the website of The Florida Bar, which licenses and regulates the state's more than 90,000 attorneys.
One of those rules says lawyers “shall make reasonable efforts to expedite litigation” and won't cause needless delays, though in this case it could be argued there was no “litigation” to delay.
And ultimately, it may make no difference.
“The sad fact is nobody enforces it,” said Sandy D'Alemberte, a lawyer, former president of Florida State University, former dean of its law school and former president of the American Bar Association.
“The courts have taken the position that when people are elected to a constitutional office, even one in which they're required to be an attorney, the Florida Bar can't discipline them,” D'Alemberte told the Tribune on Tuesday.
The Florida Commission on Ethics doesn't enforce attorney conduct rules, and a Florida Bar representative declined to comment on Bondi's remarks. Bondi's spokeswoman also declined further comment.
Earlier this month, Bondi issued a statement in which she first addressed the date change.
“As a prosecutor, there was nothing more important than seeing justice done, especially when it came to the unconscionable act of murder,” she said then. “I personally put two people on death row and, as Attorney General, have already participated in eight executions since I took office, a role I take very seriously.
“The planned execution of Marshall Lee Gore had already been (delayed) twice by the courts, and we should not have requested that the date of the execution be moved.”
Gore, a onetime escort service owner, was convicted and sentenced to death in the 1988 murder of Robyn Novick, a 30-year-old exotic dancer, whose body was found in a rural section of Miami-Dade County.