Supreme Court Case Could Result in Change in Florida’s Death-Penalty Laws

150 150 Joel Leppard

Florida, Delaware and Alabama are the only states that do not require a unanimous jury decision when sentencing someone to death.  A U.S. Supreme Court case with a ruling expected in 2016, however, could change Florida’s death penalty procedure.

Timothy Hurst, a man currently on Death Row for murder, is appealing his death sentence. Jurors in his case recommended death by a 7-5 vote, but Hurst’s attorneys argue that allowing this sentence without a unanimous jury is a violation of Hurst’s Sixth Amendment rights.

The sentencing of hundreds of other people on Florida’s Death Row could be impacted if the Supreme Court rules in favor of Hurst. Former Jacksonville State Attorney Harry Shorstein said the impact of the issue could be avoided if it is fixed legislatively instead of in court.

Legislation that would change the law to require a unanimous jury recommendation of death has already been introduced into the Florida House and Senate, however. The issue with both bills is that they have been sponsored by Democrats, and the majority of people in the Florida House and Senate are Republican.

Rep. Rob Bradley, who is on the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, does not believe legislation regarding the death penalty is likely to pass during the 2016 legislative session. He voted for a similar bill in 2015, but the legislation went nowhere in the House.

Bradley personally believes that the Supreme Court will deem Florida’s sentencing procedures unconstitutional in the Hurst case, which makes it more likely that the issue will be dealt with in the 2017 regular session.

For more information, please read: http://jacksonville.com/news/crime/2015-10-11/story/former-jacksonville-state-attorney-joins-others-calling-change-florida.

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