Florida Death Penalty

Florida overruled


In January, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down part of Florida's capital punishment system. Wrote Justice Sonia Sotomayor for the majority opinion: "The Sixth Amendment requires a jury, not a judge, to find each fact necessary to impose a sentence of death."

Florida is one of only three states that not only allowed judges to override jury recommendations for life in prison but also did not require unanimous jury verdicts in death penalty cases. The other states with similar provisions are Alabama and Delaware.

Despite this ruling, Alabama executed an inmate named Christopher Brooks on January 21. His lawyers argued that the Hurst v. Florida decision also invalidates the way Alabama hands down death sentences, but authorities in Alabama disagreed, and the U.S. Supreme Court did not stop the execution from being carried out.

Delaware has taken a different approach. Following the ruling, a Superior Court judge ordered a halt to executions in the state until the state Supreme Court determines the constitutionality of its capital punishment scheme.

Florida too has paused capital punishment. The Florida Supreme Court granted a stay of execution to Cary Lambrix, who was set to be put to death on February 11, putting the status of the death penalty in Florida in limbo.

Florida has the second-highest number of death row inmates in the nation, with 390 men and women currently awaiting execution. According to a recent analysis by The Villages Daily Sun newspaper, 75 percent of the state's death row cases involved non-unanimous juries.