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Florida Supreme Court Rejects 10 Death Row Appeals In Spite Of High Court Ruling

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In a somewhat unusual—perhaps even arguably suspicious move—on January 22nd, the Florida Supreme Court rejected appeals made by 10 death row inmates, releasing 10 nearly identical rulings. Each of the cases involved inmates challenging their sentencing because juries did not unanimously recommend execution in each of the cases.

The appeals were linked to a crucial 2016 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, which found that Florida’s death-penalty system was unconstitutional because it effectively handed decisions over to judges instead of juries. The Florida Supreme Court then ruled that jurors must agree unanimously on the death penalty before it can be imposed. As a result, Governor Rick Scott signed into law legislation effectuating these decisions. Each of these particular death row inmates were sentenced prior to these rulings, and argued that the decision regarding jury unanimity should be retroactively applied to their cases.

Sixth & Eighth Amendment Rights

The Sixth Amendment mandates that a jury (not a judge) find each and every element necessary to impose a death sentence via its jury trial guarantee. It is not sufficient to simply mandate that a judge take a jury’s recommendation into consideration. In addition, the Eighth Amendment prohibits cruel and unusual punishment.

Reviewability of Previous Death Penalty Cases

These 10 identical rulings are arguably suspect as, when the Supreme Court invalidated Florida’s practices, it also explicitly called into question the constitutionality of those death sentences that had already been handed down, to date. At that time, even the Attorney General’s Office indicated that there were a number of inmates who were automatically entitled to a review of their sentences due to the Supreme Court’s decision. Specifically, dozens of inmates on death row in Florida are now eligible to be resentenced if they were originally sentenced prior to 2002.

Frightening Statistics about Florida

Sadly, Florida leads the country in wrongful death penalty convictions: close to 30 people have been exonerated from death row, not only due to new DNA evidence being discovered, but prosecutorial misconduct and other questionable variables revealed. Just in the last seven years, 23 death warrants have been signed in the state of Florida. In 2013, Governor Rick Scott signed into law the requirement that executions be hastened via the governor signing a death warrant 30 days after clemency review was completed, with the execution occurring in 180 days. 

Florida and Massachusetts Criminal Defense Attorneys

If you or a loved one is potentially facing the death penalty, or if you feel your sentencing should be appealed, you need to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney right away. Contact the experienced criminal defense attorneys at The Baez Law Firm today to find out how we can help.

Resources:

oyez.org/cases/2015/14-7505

motherjones.com/crime-justice/2017/08/florida-death-penalty-unanimous-jury-mark-asay/

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