The United States Supreme Court dropped a bombshell last month, striking down Florida’s longstanding death-penalty sentencing system as unconstitutional. Florida lawmakers have been relatively quick to react, however – on Thursday 2/18, the Florida House approved a measure that will address the Supreme Court’s concerns.
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Why Did SCOTUS Reject Florida’s Death Penalty?
Prior to the Supreme Court’s ruling, judges had the power to disregard the recommendation of a jury, and were allowed to impose their own sentence after a defendant was found guilty. In the case brought before the Court, a judge had held a separate sentencing hearing to determine whether a death penalty was justified. A SCOTUS ruling from 2002, Ring v. Arizona, set the precedent that this determination must be made by juries.
Disagreement Between Houses
After the SCOTUS decision, there was disagreement between the Florida State Senate and Florida House as to what the requirements for the death penalty would be. The Senate wanted to require all jurors to recommend the death penalty, while the House was in favor of a 9-3 majority. The existing law only required a simple majority of jurors to recommend the death penalty, making Florida one of just three states to not mandate a unanimous recommendation.
Compromise Is Coming Soon
The two houses were able to compromise, however, and the measure passed through the Florida House on Thursday will require recommendations from 10 of the 12 jurors for a death sentence. While the State Senate has not yet voted on the measure, it is expected to pass prior to the end of the legislative session on March 11th.
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