The state of Florida had revamped its death penalty law a mere seven months ago, only to have the Florida Supreme Court declare the newly revised statute unconstitutional. The Florida Supreme Court has also suggested that there was a significant deal of uncertainty surrounding the death penalty, as the state is one of the leading practitioners of capital punishment in the nation. The recently revised death penalty was challenged due to the fact that it did not require a unanimous decision from the jurors in order to draw the sentence. Nearly 400 inmates are on Florida’s death row and due to the fluctuations surrounding the death penalty uncertainty have arisen as to their outcome.
According to the Washington Post, this is the second time this year that the Florida Supreme Court has struck down the state’s death sentencing law. The initial overturned law was in part due to the fact that it allowed the judge, not the jurors, to determine the final sentencing. The recent ruling came about because Florida deemed only seven out of the 12 appointed jurors had to agree to the sentencing rather than it being a unanimous decision. This became a point of interest because most other states that exercise the death penalty require unanimity among the jury of peers.
A report from WLRN stated, “until the state Legislature can rewrite the sentencing procedure, the state effectively has no death penalty.”
Florida’s Response to the Death Penalty Ruling
Back in March, in response to the ruling of the high court, Florida enacted a new measure requiring that the jury vote be unanimous in at least one aggravating circumstance to warrant the death penalty. There was also an increase in the number of jurors required, brought up from seven to 10. A group of legal figures from the state, including two former chief justices, claimed that those individuals who were sentenced under the previous Florida law should face life imprisonment.
Attorney General Pam Bondi argues that the recent sentencing only affected a portion of the statute and not the entire death penalty. Her office is currently reviewing the Supreme Court ruling, but for the time being, Florida jurors are to make unanimous decisions in cases of capital punishment. Some Florida justices have expressed concern over the fact that the revision of the statute has granted constitutional protection to inmates who’d otherwise be facing a death sentence.
If you know of anyone who requires criminal defense in the wake of Florida’s revised death penalty, it may be wise to speak to an attorney as soon as possible.
Florida Supreme Court says state’s new death penalty law is unconstitutional. (n.d.). Retrieved October 25, 2016, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2016/10/14/florida-supreme-court-says-states-new-death-penalty-law-is-unconstitutional/?utm_term=.8dee1da81a83
Florida’s Supreme Court Declares State Death Penalty Law Unconstitutional. (n.d.). Retrieved October 25, 2016, from http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/10/14/497966994/floridas-supreme-court-declares-state-death-penalty-law-unconstitutional