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Fla. man's impending execution clouded

Feb. 25, 2013 at 6:06 PM

TALLAHASSEE, Fla., Feb. 25 (UPI) -- The scheduled execution of a man who has spent 22 years on Florida's death row comes as a state legislator says he wants to shorten the time for such appeals.

Paul August Howell is scheduled to die by lethal injection Tuesday for the pipe-bomb killing of a Florida state trooper in 1992.

His conviction and appeals have been clouded by charges of conflict of interest by his trial attorney, lost court files and failure to tell the court of his brain damage, The Miami Herald reported Sunday.

"If it weren't so tragic, it would be a comedy of errors," attorney Sonya Rudenstine said.

She charges that attorneys who represented Howell for 13 years never met him, lost his files in a flood and never requested new ones.

Death row inmates are routinely assigned an attorney to present the case in federal court. However, his court-appointed attorney missed the filing deadline.

The Florida Supreme Court last week rejected an appeal by Howell's new attorneys, who have filed a request in federal court in Tallahassee.

Republican state Rep. Matt Gaetz wants to cut five years off the time death row inmates have to file appeals in state courts. The bill would also ban any lawyer from taking a capital case for five years whom a court ruled was ineffective in handling an appeal of a death sentence.

Rudenstine is critical of the legislation, saying her client has been on death row for 22 years "and still hasn't had one third of his appeals."

"If you speed up the conviction process, you are not going to give people better justice," Rudenstine said.

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