Florida’s Death Penalty: DeSantis Calls for Repeal of Unanimous Jury Requirement

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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis wants the Florida Legislature to alteration a authorities instrumentality that requires a unanimous assemblage ballot to enforce a decease sentence.

Speaking astatine the Florida Sheriffs Association Winter Conference successful St. Johns County connected Jan. 23, DeSantis called upon Florida’s legislators to reconsider the state’s request that a assemblage indispensable ballot unanimously to urge the decease condemnation earlier a justice tin see imposing a death penalty sentence.

The politician noted however Nikolas Cruz—the 18-year-old who killed 14 students and 3 unit members astatine Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School successful Parkland, Florida, connected Feb. 14, 2018—was spared a decease condemnation past November due to the fact that a Broward County assemblage did not unanimously hold to urge the eventual sentence.

Nikolas Cruz Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz sits astatine the defence array during a unfortunate interaction connection astatine his sentencing proceeding astatine the Broward County Courthouse successful Fort Lauderdale, Fla., connected Nov. 2, 2022. (Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun Sentinel via AP, Pool)

As The Epoch Times reported on Dec. 13, 2022, that Cruz volition person a condemnation of beingness without parole because the assemblage could not unanimously hold that helium should beryllium executed.

At a property league pursuing the verdict, DeSantis said that “this is simply a case—where you’re massacring those students with premeditation and utter disregard for basal humanity—that you merit the decease penalty.”

“The jurors came backmost 11-1, with 1 clasp retired refusing to authorize the eventual punishment,” DeSantis said, adding, “And that means that this slayer is going to extremity up getting the aforesaid condemnation arsenic those who person committed atrocious acts, but acts that did not emergence to this level.”

DeSantis’s Democratic gubernatorial hostile connected the November 2022 midterm ballot agreed that execution was the close penalty.

“There are crimes for which the lone conscionable punishment is death,” erstwhile politician and State Sen. Charlie Crist said connected Twitter connected Oct. 13, 2022. “The Parkland families and assemblage deserved that grade of justice.”

For the trial, 1 juror faced allegations of bias that she had made her determination earlier the proceedings began. She was against the decease penalty. An unidentified juror reported feeling threatened by different subordinate of the jury.

At the sheriff’s Winter Conference connected Jan. 23, DeSantis called for the state’s instrumentality to beryllium overhauled.

“Bottom line, that should astir apt beryllium changed by statute,” DeSantis said. “It’s 1 happening to say, ‘Yeah, evidently a bulk of the assemblage has to—maybe a supermajority. But that 1 idiosyncratic (is) capable to veto that?”

The South Florida Sun Sentinel reported that the verdict, which took Broward Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer an hr to work successful court, was rendered by a ballot of 7 to three.

U.S. Supreme Court Case

U.S. Supreme Court The U.S. Supreme Court Building successful Washington connected Oct. 3, 2022. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

In an 8-1 determination connected Jan. 12, 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court rendered an sentiment in Hurst v. Florida, striking down the state’s death-penalty sentencing statute, which lone required a bulk of the jurors to agree—as unconstitutional.

At the clip the sentiment was rendered, Florida’s death-penalty instrumentality required astatine slightest 10 of the 12 jurors to hold connected an “advisory sentence” of beingness oregon death, but they were not required to specify the factors utilized to scope their decision. After receiving a jury’s recommendation, the justice would clasp a abstracted proceeding to find if determination were capable aggravating circumstances to warrant imposing the decease penalty. However, the High Court decided that the request for a judge’s sentencing, based connected a proposal by a jury, violated the Sixth Amendment.

“The Sixth Amendment requires a jury, not a judge, to find each information indispensable to enforce a condemnation of death,” the Court ruled. “A jury’s specified proposal is not enough.”

In March 2016, Florida’s superior punishment statute was amended to necessitate that jurors unanimously hold that the prosecution had presented—beyond a tenable doubt—that astatine slightest 1 aggravating condition existed successful the case, which proved that the suspect was eligible for the decease penalty.

In addition, astatine slightest 10 of the 12 jurors had to hold upon a proposal for the decease penalty. Only past could a justice see imposing a decease sentence. This amendment besides repealed a erstwhile proviso that permitted judges to override a jury’s proposal of a beingness sentence.

Florida Supreme Court

Epoch Times Photo The Florida Supreme Court Building, Tallahassee, FL May 2022. (Courtesy, Florida Supreme Court)

On Oct. 14, 2016, the Florida Supreme Court decided 2 cases.

In Timothy Lee Hurst v. State of Florida, the Court decided that, “because the decease condemnation was imposed connected Hurst successful usurpation of the Sixth Amendment close to a assemblage determination of each captious uncovering indispensable for imposition of the decease sentence” and due to the fact that “the mistake is not harmless beyond a tenable uncertainty nether the facts and circumstances of this case,” it would “vacate Hurst’s decease condemnation and remand for a caller punishment signifier proceeding accordant with this opinion.”

In Larry Darnell Perry v. State of Florida, Florida’s Supreme Court struck down the Florida legislature’s March 2016 revision due to the fact that it did not necessitate a assemblage to beryllium unanimous successful its proposal of the decease condemnation earlier the proceedings justice could see imposing a decease sentence.

In its speechmaking of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Hurst ruling, the Florida tribunal decided that a assemblage is constitutionally required to find:

  1. “the beingness of each aggravating origin that has been proven beyond a tenable doubt”
  2. “the uncovering that the aggravating factors are sufficient” to warrant a decease condemnation ruling
  3. “the uncovering that the aggravating factors outweigh the mitigating circumstances”
  4. “the jury’s recommended condemnation of decease indispensable beryllium unanimous”

Florida’s existent instrumentality regarding the decease penalty, F.S. 921.141, states that “after proceeding each of the grounds presented regarding aggravating factors and mitigating circumstances, the assemblage shall deliberate and find if the authorities has proven, beyond a tenable doubt, the beingness of astatine slightest 1 aggravating factor” the jury “shall instrumentality findings identifying each aggravating origin recovered to exist” and that the uncovering “must beryllium unanimous.”

Only past tin a assemblage “make a proposal to the tribunal arsenic to whether the suspect shall beryllium sentenced to beingness imprisonment without the anticipation of parole oregon to death.”

If the assemblage does not unanimously hold connected the beingness of astatine slightest 1 aggravating factor, “the suspect is ineligible for a condemnation of death.”

According to the Florida Department of Corrections, determination are presently 301 individuals connected decease row successful the Sunshine State.

Zachary Stieber contributed to this report.