Supreme Court: Fla. Death Penalty System Unconstitutional

It was found to violate the right to trial by jury
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 12, 2016 4:20 PM CST
The US Supreme Court ruled Florida's death penalty system is unconstitutional on Tuesday while hearing the case of Timothy Hurst, who killed his manager at a Popeye's in 1998.   (Florida Department of Law Enforcement via AP)

(Newser) – The US Supreme Court declared Florida's death penalty system unconstitutional on Tuesday, opening the possibility of new hearings for at least some of the 390 inmates currently on death row in the state, the AP reports. In an 8-1 vote, the Supreme Court ruled the system violated the right to trial by jury by giving judges—not juries—the final say on whether the death penalty is imposed, according to the Los Angeles Times. "The Sixth Amendment requires a jury, not a judge, to find each fact necessary to impose a sentence of death," the AP quotes Justice Sotomayor in her decision. Justice Alito was the lone dissenting vote.

The ruling was based on the case of Timothy Hurst, who killed his manager at a Florida Popeye's in 1998, the AP reports. The jury was split 7-5 on the death penalty, but a judge ruled for it anyway. It remains to be seen whether Hurst will get a new hearing. The ruling was a blow for the mother of Hurst's victim, who tells NBC News that after 17 years she no longer cares if Hurst is executed or not. "I just want it over with," she says. "I want to know he has no more appeals." The Supreme Court struck down a similar death penalty system in 2002 in Arizona, the Times reports. (Read more death penalty stories.)

My Take on This Story
Show results without voting  |