Twelve Miami-Dade County jurors recently deliberated on whether a man should be sentenced to life in prison or receive the death penalty for his crimes. The reason that this case is historic is that it is the first time in Miami that a death-penalty case went to a sentencing hearing since the state of Florida changed the rules all together for awarding the death penalty to certain criminals. In this particular case, instead of send this convicted killer to Death Row, the jury chose mercy through a sentence of life in prison.
Florida court cases involving the death penalty have been in a state of limbo since January 2016 when the United States Supreme Court ruled that the state's death penalty sentencing law was unconstitutional due to the fact that it gave too much power to judges with regards to sentencing. Since that ruling, capital punishment cases around the state have been on hold, as the state legislature and state Supreme Court have been working to establish a constitutional standard for capital punishment in the state of Florida. However, recently the Florida Supreme Court made a surprising ruling regarding current cases.
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.
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.
Recent state court decisions and amendments to the laws surrounding the constitutionality of death penalty sentencing practices in Florida are being challenged by judges in multiple cases. In the most recent development, a Miami-Dade judge found the death penalty to be unconstitutional based on the fact that it does not require unanimity of the jury. Florida Circuit Judge Milton Hirsch put it this way: "A decedent cannot be more or less dead. An expectant mother cannot be more or less pregnant. And a jury cannot be more or less unanimous. Every verdict in every criminal case in Florida requires the concurrence, not of some, not of most, but of all jurors - every single one of them."