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Supreme Court finds Florida death penalty procedures unconstitutional

Recently, the Supreme Court ruled that Florida's death penalty sentencing procedures are in violation of constitutional rights. The court heard the case of 37-year old Timothy Hurst, who was convicted of murder and sentenced to death in in 1998.

Decisions must be made by juries, not judges

The Supreme Court found 8-1 that the evidence used to sentence Hurst to the death penalty relied on the findings of a judge, not the verdict of a jury. This was found to be a violation of the Sixth Amendment, which establishes the rights of criminal defendants to receive a fair trial. The nation's highest court upholds that death penalty decisions must be made by juries, not judges.

Convicted for a brutal murder

Hurst was convicted of murdering Cynthia Harrison, his manager at Popeye's, with a box cutter. Hurst, whose legal team has described him as mentally disabled, isn't off death row yet. The Florida Supreme Court will re-examine his case to find if the death penalty can be legally upheld by other means. They rejected an appeal by Hurst in 2014.

Florida ranks high in death penalty

Florida has the fourth highest number of executions of any state. It currently has 390 inmates awaiting execution. It remains to be seen what impact this finding will have on those pending cases, but it seems likely that some will be re-examined in light of the ruling.

In the event that you are charged with a crime, having an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side can help you understand your rights. If you are convicted and feel as if you weren't granted a fair trial, an experienced post conviction relief attorney may be able to help you.

Source:

U.S. Supreme Court strikes down Florida death sentence process, Reuters, Lawrence Hurley, 12 Jan 2016

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