Polls Show That Floridians Prefer Unanimity or No Death Penalty At All
The Sun Sentinel ran an important article recently on the public’s reaction to changes in Florida’s death penalty law. After the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Florida’s majority-rule death-sentence recommendation from juries was unconstitutional, and the Florida Supreme Court struck down the “ten out of 12 jurors must recommend death” rule, the legislature passed a law requiring a unanimous jury recommendation of death in order sentence someone to death.
Many in Florida are now more comfortable with the law, pointing out that, if it takes a unanimous jury verdict to convict someone, it should take the same to execute someone. This is arguably more just and allows the state to be more cognizant of how it spends taxpayers’ money.
How Was Florida’s Death Penalty Unconstitutional?
Florida’s death penalty was originally found to be unconstitutional because, although a jury would initially recommend a death sentence for a defendant, the judge would then hold a separate hearing to determine whether there were sufficient aggravating circumstances to impose the death penalty. This was found to explicitly violate the Sixth Amendment, which guarantees your right to a jury trial in order to impose a sentence of death (and not just a jury’s recommendation).
Highest Number of Wrongful Convictions in Florida
Broward County, Florida not only leads the state in the highest number of wrongful convictions in the state when it comes to murder, but it leads the entire country in the highest number of wrongful convictions in death penalty cases. According to the Death Penalty Information Center (which tracks individuals on death row who were later exonerated), there have been a total 162 death penalty exonerations, 27 of which occurred in Florida and four of which were in Broward County. As of 2016, 10 percent of the nation’s convicts awaiting execution were on death row in Florida.
What the Public Wants
According to polling, 62 percent of Floridians would rather not have the death penalty at all and, instead, sentence those convicted of murder to life in prison. Every other state (except Alabama) also requires unanimity to obtain the death sentence for those convicted of first-degree murder. All those who were sentenced under Florida’s previous scheme then had their sentences commuted to life without the possibility of parole once the Supreme Court decided that Florida’s scheme was unconstitutional in 2016.
The Best in Florida Criminal Defense
If you are facing any kind of criminal charges—whether capital or not—you must speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney right away in order to ensure that your rights are protected throughout the process.
At the Baez Law Firm, our tenacious, aggressive attorneys will work tirelessly to ensure that you secure the best outcome for your case. Contact us today for a consultation.