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What Changes to Florida's Death Penalty Laws Mean for those on Death Row

The execution chamber in Florida State Prison.
Florida Department of Corrections.
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

It’s been a year of confusion for Florida’s roughly 400 death penalty cases. A series of court cases called the ultimate punishment unconstitutional, but a new law rapidly passed by lawmakers and signed by Gov. Rick Scott changes the state's death penalty to require unanimous juries to hand down a death sentence.

The Florida Supreme Court’s ruling that any jury with a ten-to-two supermajority vote in favor of execution was unconstitutional precipitated the change, which is the second to Florida's death penalty laws in as many years. In 2016, the Governor took the death sentence decision out of the hands of judges who, for decades, had been the arbiter of the ultimate punishment.

The changes to the state's death penalty laws have changed so frequently that some prosecutors, like Orlando-area State Attorney Aramis Ayala was removed by Gov. Scott for refusing to pursue the death penalty.

Thursday at 1 p.m., Karen Gottllieb with the Florida Center for Capital Representation, explains what these changes mean to the prisoners on Florida's death row.

Southwest Florida-area  State Attorney Stephen Russell also joins the program to explain what these changes mean for capital cases from the region, and the sentences handed down under laws that have now been deemed unconstitutional.

Copyright 2020 WGCU. To see more, visit WGCU.

Matthew Smith is a reporter and producer of WGCU’s Gulf Coast Live.
Julie Glenn is the host of Gulf Coast Live. She has been working in southwest Florida as a freelance writer since 2007, most recently as a regular columnist for the Naples Daily News. She began her broadcasting career in 1993 as a reporter/anchor/producer for a local CBS affiliate in Quincy, Illinois. After also working for the NBC affiliate, she decided to move to Parma, Italy where she earned her Master’s degree in communication from the University of Gastronomic Sciences. Her undergraduate degree in Mass Communication is from the University of Missouri at Kansas City.