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Florida Supreme Court Overturns Three Death Sentences

There is a growing conflict surrounding the new Florida death penalty law due to some individuals receiving overturned death sentences. Known inmates charged with first-degree murder, who previously were sentenced to death, may now only face life imprisonment. Re-sentencing hearings have already taken place and more are being scheduled to determine whether the death sentence they hold still stands.

One such individual, Lancelot Uriley Armstrong (convicted of armed robbery and murder of a deputy officer), already had his sentence overturned. Also, on the list of felons being set to have their sentencing re-evaluated is a man convicted of the kidnap and murder of an 81-year-old woman, and another who murdered his wife for having an affair. The reasoning behind those convicted being able to have their sentences re-examined by a jury, is in conjunction with a U.S. and State Supreme Court ruling that went into effect late last year. The U.S. Supreme Court and State Supreme Court had ruled the death penalty statute as unconstitutional, making sentences issued after 2002 invalid because they did not require a unanimous jury vote and because a judge could hand down a death penalty sentence without a jury's approval. According to the court system, sentences that occurred prior to that date are in good standing and will not be overturned.

According to the new state legislation, during their sentencing hearings, these individuals, and anyone else whose death penalty sentence is overturned, would need a unanimous juror vote in order to maintain their initial death penalty sentence. Jurors are also required to specify their reasoning as to why the individual must be put to death and it must outweigh the defendant's argument. If less than a unanimous vote is received, then the sentence is life imprisonment. If the legislation holds steadfast, some 200 death-row inmates could be facing life imprisonment instead of execution.

Due to the ongoing adjustment in legislation, no one has been executed in the state of Florida since January of 2016. The bill that would require the unanimous juror vote will potentially be approved during legislative session at the beginning of March.

If you are or know of someone who is currently facing the death penalty in Florida, there may be a chance they can have their sentence re-heard. Seek out information from a professional criminal defense law firm that has experience in appealing sentences.

References:

Bureau, M. A. (n.d.). Florida court overturns three death sentences, including convicted cop killer's. Retrieved February 07, 2017, from http://www.bradenton.com/news/politics-government/article127487814.html

Stutzman, R. (2017, January 19). Florida Supreme Court throws out death penalty of man who killed Lake County woman. Retrieved February 07, 2017, from http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/breaking-news/os-florida-death-penalty-donald-williams-20170119-story.html

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