FL GOP Bills Would End Requirement for Unanimous Juries on Death Penalty

For each three folks put to dying in Florida since 1976, one individual has been exonerated.

Republicans within the Florida legislature have proposed ending the requirement for unanimous jury suggestions in capital homicide instances earlier than an individual may be sentenced to dying by the state.

Such a requirement didn’t exist till 2016, when the federal Supreme Court docket dominated that majority-based suggestions to judges on the dying penalty gave an excessive amount of energy to judges. The state legislature reacted swiftly to that ruling, passing a brand new legislation permitting judges to condemn folks to dying if 10 out of 12 jurors agreed on the matter, however the state Supreme Court docket discovered that legislation unconstitutional as effectively, stating in late 2016 that unanimous jury selections have been wanted to impose a dying sentence.

Since then, nonetheless, the state Supreme Court has undergone a dramatic rightward shift, largely because of appointments by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, who took workplace in 2019. In 2020, the state Supreme Court docket overruled its earlier resolution, discovering that unanimous juries weren’t wanted (although it saved the requirement in place in the interim, saying that the state legislature must actively go a brand new legislation with a view to enact the change).

Justice Jorge Labarga, who dissented in that case, referred to as it “an enormous step backward,” and a elimination of “a major safeguard for the simply software of the dying penalty in Florida.”

This week, state Rep. Berny Jacques (R) and state Sen. Blaise Ingoglia (R) launched comparable payments of their respective homes of the state legislature that would only require eight out of 12 jurors to recommend a death penalty sentence to a choose, only one week after DeSantis signaled assist for such a change.

The Florida governor, talking earlier than the Florida Sheriffs Affiliation, said that he wanted to see a system where a “super-majority” of jurors would resolve on the dying penalty, slightly than a unanimous jury. “Possibly eight out of 12 or one thing,” he mentioned.

Because the federal reintroduction of the dying penalty in 1976, Florida has executed 99 people. However DNA and different post-trial proof have exonerated round 30 folks throughout that very same time interval — an alarming statistic that implies that, for every three executions the state carries out, one person has been wrongly convicted.

It’s probably that the state will put extra folks to dying within the coming years. Florida currently has 323 people sitting on death row — greater than some other state in addition to California, which has a moratorium on the dying penalty.

Sister Helen Prejean, an advocate for abolishing the dying penalty, reacted to DeSantis’s name for reducing the edge wanted to condemn somebody in Florida to dying.

“Given all the issues, errors, and injustices within the felony authorized system, making it simpler to impose a dying sentence is a really dangerous concept,” Prejean said in a tweet. “If prosecutors can’t persuade a jury to vote for dying, maybe the answer is to finish capital punishment slightly than change the foundations.”

A corporation referred to as Floridians for Options to the Loss of life Penalty additionally spoke out towards state-sanctioned executions. “Florida’s Loss of life Penalty is damaged. It’s time to finish it,” the group said in a tweet, just some hours after the invoice to vary dying penalty requirements was submitted within the state Home of Representatives.