The Florida Supreme Court has ruled that the state’s death penalty law, which does not require a unanimous agreement from jurors, is unconstitutional. What this means is that until state lawmakers can rewrite the sentencing procedure in Florida death penalty cases, there is no death penalty in Florida — at least for those awaiting trial.
Death penalty opponents applaud the decision, which comes not long after the law was recently-revamped. Previously, Florida did not require juries deciding on death penalty cases to reach a unanimous verdict as to the fate of the defendant. Only a majority was necessary to impose a death sentence. The law was rewritten to require a unanimous verdict. However, legislators decided to require, in a law passed earlier this year, that only 10 out of 12 jurors agree to impose death. That’s because the size of the jury in capital cases (as compared to other criminal matters) expands from 10 to 12.
However, the Florida Supreme Court in Perry v. Florida has now soundly rejected this arrangement. The U.S. Supreme Court had already determined back in January that judges in this state had far too much input in the decision of whether someone should be put to death. In fact, it should be the responsibility of the jury alone to make that call. Continue reading