Gov. Rick Scott signed into law a new pathway to sentence someone to death Monday. These changes came nearly two months after the U.S. Supreme Court took issue with Florida’s old system for handing down the sentence in the Hurst v. Florida case.
The basis for the decision was that in Florida the jury only recommended the death penalty. The judge made the final decision. The high court found that that system violated the Sixth Amendment to the Constitution. A question the court left unanswered was whether a non-unanimous jury recommendation was also constitutionally problematic.
The new Florida law requires 10 of 12 jurors to agree to hand down the sentence; previously there only had to be a simple majority.
Craig Trocino, director of the University of Miami Law School’s innocence clinic, says the new law does not insulate the state’s death penalty system from future attacks as some had hoped.
“I don’t think it fully satisfies Hurst, and Hurst revolved around Sixth Amendment issues,” says Trocino, “I don't think it satisfies Eighth Amendment challenges that will definitely come down the pike too. What they’ve done is essentially opened up additional litigation in the future on this particular statute.”
The Sixth Amendment gives people a right to a jury of their peers and the Eighth Amendment protects from cruel and unusual punishment.
While the state now has a system in place to sentence people to death, there still is an effective moratorium on carrying out the sentence.
That’s until the Florida Supreme Court makes a decision on how the Hurst case affects those who have already been sentenced.