Bill Proposes Unanimous Juries In Death Penalty Cases
After the Florida Supreme Court ruled that a new death-penalty law was unconstitutional, the chairman of the Senate Criminal Justice committee Friday proposed requiring unanimous jury recommendations before defendants could be sentenced to death.
The proposal (SB 280), filed by Sen. Randolph Bracy, D-Orlando, was an opening move as lawmakers prepare to grapple with the death-penalty sentencing system during the legislative session that starts March 7. The U.S. Supreme Court last January ruled that the sentencing system was unconstitutional because it gave too much power to judges, instead of juries, in determining whether inmates should be put to death.
The Legislature quickly passed a law to try to address that ruling. As part of that law, the Legislature required at least 10 of 12 jurors to recommend the death penalty, a departure from a longstanding law that required a simple majority.
But the Florida Supreme Court in October ruled that jury recommendations must be unanimous for the death penalty to be imposed. Bracy's bill would match that requirement.
Senators last year backed requiring unanimous jury recommendations but ran into opposition in the House and from prosecutors. That led to a compromise to require recommendations by at least 10 jurors.