Florida Revamping Death Penalty to Reboot Executions

Bill sent to governor requires a 10-2 jury vote for judge to OK execution
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 3, 2016 2:10 PM CST
Florida Revamping Death Penalty to Reboot Executions
State Sen. Rob Bradley, center, asks a question during a meeting concerning issues with Florida's death penalty on Jan. 13, 2016, in Tallahassee, Fla.   (Scott Keeler/The Tampa Bay Times via AP)

In January, the US Supreme Court ruled that the way Florida's death penalty was carried out was unconstitutional. Now, in reaction to that decision, the state is overhauling its system, with the Florida Legislature sending a bill to Gov. Rick Scott that would mandate at least 10 out of 12 jurors recommend execution before it's able to be greenlit by a judge—not simply a majority of the jurors, as is currently required, the AP reports. Florida's Supreme Court put two executions on hold after the high court's ruling, and other cases across the state have also been in limbo since. The US Supreme Court's ruling came about because juries only hold an advisory role in execution decisions, meaning a judge could reach a different decision than a jury, even if it was a close vote.

The case that the ruling was based on was that of Timothy Hurst, convicted of killing his manager at a Florida Popeyes in 1998. The jury in his case was divided almost down the middle (seven for execution, five against), and the judge chose execution. (One of Hurst's lawyers filed a motion last month arguing his case should be moved to a lower court that can impose a sentence of life in prison.) Florida legislators at first considered requiring the jury decision to be unanimous—Florida is one of only a few states that doesn't carry that mandate—but state senators reached the 10-2 decision as a "compromise" with the House, which Capitol News Service says wanted the jury requirement to be 9-3. At least one state senator says that compromise is a mistake. "Judges are uncertain in regard to what the jury really decided," state Sen. Geraldine Thompson tells the service. "With a unanimous verdict, they know without question that this is the will of the jury." (More death penalty stories.)

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