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Death Penalty Back On The Books In Florida

Florida's execution chamber.
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

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.

CraigTrocino, 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 Hurstrevolved around SixthAmendment issues,” saysTrocino, “I don't think it satisfies EighthAmendment 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.

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Wilson Sayre was born and bred in Raleigh, N.C., home of the only real barbecue in the country (we're talking East here). She graduated from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, where she studied Philosophy.