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Questions remain over Death Penalty

September 21st, 2016 by Mike Vasilinda

The Supreme Court of Florida could rule as early as tomorrow on the fate of nearly 400 death row inmates after the highest court in the nation ruled last January that the way death sentences are handed out is unconstitutional. As Mike Vasilinda tells us, the court has two questions to answer.

The US Supreme Court ruled that the way Florida imposes death sentences was unconstitutional because the jury didn’t have the final say.

The first question facing Florida Courts? What to do with the 388 people on death row. In June, Jacksonville lawyer Richard Kuritz, representing one inmate, argued they should all automatically be re-sentenced to life in prison.

“Absolutely, because when we start drawing a line, that’s where the problem is going to be is because the statute has been declared unconstitutional.  The sentencing scheme. well, it’s the same scheme we’ve been using  since the reinstatement of the death penalty case” says Kuritz.

The Second question facing the court is whether the state’s new death sentencing law, which lawmakers passed this spring, goes far enough because it only requires ten of the twelve jurors to agree on death. Former Supreme Court Justice Raoul Cantero was in the court this week lecturing on the death penalty. A decade ago he wrote that that Florida must adopt a unanimous jury if it wanted to continue to impose death.

“But the legislature refused to do it and I think the law has evolved since than, and I think the time has come. “I don’t think 10-2 repairs the deficiencies in the statute” Cantero told us.

And, no matter what this court decides, it’s  likely to face multiple appeals that could take a long time.

Without the 10-2 compromise, lawmakers say there would be no death penalty at all. But in the end, not requiring a unanimous jury may have the same result.

In 1972 when the US Supreme Court temporarily ended the death penalty, inmates on Death Row in Florida saw their sentences commuted to live in prison.

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