Death penalty executions paused in Florida after Supreme Court ruling

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All death penalty executions in Florida have been put on hold after the Florida Supreme Court ruled that the death penalty must be levied by a unanimous jury, doing away with a provision in state law that allowed for a 10-2 jury majority to sentence a person to death in the Sunshine State.


In the case of Hurst v. Florida, Timothy Lee Hurst, a man on Florida's Death Row (the second-largest in the country) received a 7-5 jury vote recommending a judge sentence Hurst to death, which the judge accepted. The U.S. Supreme Court, which heard the case last year and issued its judgement in January, found that Hurst's Sixth Amendment right to a jury decision in his case had been violated and that the process by which he'd been sentenced was unconstitutional.

Now, the state Supreme Court has ruled that all death penalty verdicts require a unanimous jury decision. “Requiring unanimous jury recommendations of death before the ultimate penalty may be imposed will ensure that in the view of the jury — a veritable microcosm of the community — the defendant committed the worst of murders with the least amount of mitigation,” the Court ruled.

The seven-juror majority rule was removed by the Florida State Legislature and Governor Rick Scott in a major revamping of the Florida criminal justice system, but kept intact the majority rule, requiring a 10-2 decision for the death penalty. That revamping has now been called into question thanks to the Supreme Court's decision. Hurst has also been ordered to have a new sentencing in his case.

Sam Stecklow is the Weekend Editor for Fusion.