Orlando Criminal Defense Attorney
call for a free consultation

Supreme Court Invalidates Florida’s Death Penalty System

Despite growing concerns over its fairness and constitutionality, just over half of U.S. states, including Florida, still have the death penalty for those convicted of certain crimes. According to an NPR story, Florida holds the dubious distinction of being the state with the second-highest number of death row inmates, at 390. But in early January 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Florida’s system for imposing that penalty, throwing into question the status of all the state’s current death sentences.

As NPR reports, in the case of Hurst v. Florida, the Supreme Court in an 8-1 decision ruled that Florida’s system of allowing a judge to override a jury’s sentencing recommendation of either death or life in prison without parole violates the U.S. Constitution. In the Hurst case, Timothy Hurst was convicted of murdering a co-worker, and, after the penalty phase of the trial, the jury recommended that he be sentenced to death. Florida law, however, required the judge to hold a separate hearing to determine whether aggravating circumstances existed to support imposing the death penalty. At this hearing the judge, and not the jury, was responsible for finding the relevant facts to support the sentence. Ultimately, the judge agreed with the jury’s recommendation.

The Supreme Court concluded that the right to a jury trial, protected by the Sixth Amendment, means that a jury, not a judge, must find every fact necessary to support a death sentence. Because Florida’s statutory scheme permits the judge to disregard the jury’s recommendation and mandates that she draw her own factual conclusions, that system is unconstitutional. In reaching this decision, the Court had to overrule its own previous opinions upholding the Florida system. NPR reports that the Court did so based upon its conclusion that the “underpinnings” of those decisions have been “eroded by time and subsequent developments in constitutional law.”

What does this decision mean for Florida’s hundreds of death row inmates? It is not clear whether the Hurst decision will apply retroactively – meaning it remains to be seen whether those sentences need to be revisited because they were imposed under a regime now found to be unconstitutional, or whether the decision will only apply to new sentences going forward. Responding to Hurst, Florida’s Attorney General released a statement vowing to work with the state legislature on changing current death penalty statutes to comply with the Court’s decision, and declaring that decision’s impact on existing sentences will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

Consult an Orlando Criminal Defense Lawyer

If you are facing criminal charges, a tough defense lawyer in your corner can make a world of difference. The skilled criminal defense lawyers of The Baez Law Firm have successfully represented clients in all manner of criminal cases in Orlando, Miami, Tampa and beyond. Contact The Baez Law Firm for a consultation about your case today.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Google+
Miami Office

Miami Office

40 SW 13th St, Suite 505
Miami, FL 33130
Office: 305-999-5100
Fax: 305-999-5111
Orlando Office

Orlando Office

23 South Osceola Avenue
Orlando, FL 32801
Office: 407-705-2626
Fax: 407-705-2625

Email Us

Fields Marked * Are required

Captcha Image

DISCLAIMER: Completing and submitting this form or otherwise merely contacting The Baez Law Firm or any individual at the firm will not establish an attorney/client relationship. Our firm cannot represent you until we determine that there would be no conflict of interest and that we are otherwise able to accept representation of your case. Please do not send any information or documents until a formal attorney/client relationship has been established through an interview with an attorney and you have been given authorization in the form of an engagement letter with The Baez Law Firm. Any information or documents sent via this form or otherwise prior to your receipt of an engagement letter will not be treated as confidences, secrets, or protected information of any nature. Submitting information regarding your potential case will not bar The Baez Law Firm from representing or continuing to represent a person or entity whose interest are adverse to your in condition with your case.

DISCLAIMER: This website contains information about The Baez Law Firm that includes testimonial statements from persons who are familiar with the firm's services. The testimonials shown are not necessarily representative of every person's experience with us. Testimonials from every client are not provided. As no two situations or persons are identical, the facts and circumstances of your situation may differ from those for which testimonials are shown. This website also includes information about some of the past results that we have obtained for our clients. Not all results are provided, and the results shown are not necessarily representative of all results obtained by us. No two situation are exactly alike; every person's situation is unique and the outcome for each person depends on the individual facts.

The information on this website is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this site should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.
MileMark Media - Practice Growth Solutions

© 2015 - 2017 Baez Law Firm. All rights reserved.
This law firm website is managed by MileMark Media.

Contact Form Tab