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War of words over pursing death cases

November 4th, 2016 by Mike Vasilinda

Attorney General Pam Bondi is pushing to have judges and juries try death cases, even though the Florida Supreme Court ruled the law setting out a 10-2 jury decision was unconstitutional. Now, Bondi’s efforts have fueled a war of words with defense attorneys.

Florida’s top judges said death must be imposed unanimously by a jury. They threw out a law allowing a 10-2 jury decision. Mark Schlakman is a death penalty expert.

“Some could argue that no proceeding should go forward, and then there will be other scenarios where people might say well, yes, however, you could also proceed with the trial phase and defer on the penalty phase” says Schlakman.

There are at least two cases trying to answer this question, pending now before the start Supreme Court.

The Attorney General is asking the high court to let the trials go forward.

Nancy Daniels is the Public Defender who won the US Supreme Court case that

said juries must be unanimous. We asked her “Can prosecutions go forward, in your mind, now?”  “No” was her response.

Bondi’s lawyers write that prosecutions should still be conducted as long as the trial courts insure the juries final recommendation is unanimous. Daniels says “We don’t think that could possible be true. If it is the courts are going to be guessing what procedures to use, and what jury instructions to give the juries, and that isn’t the way trials and due process of law works.”

Ultimately, state lawmakers must rewrite the law, they get their first chance in two weeks when they come to the Capitol for a one day organization session, but so far it’s not on their agenda.

386 people woke up on death row in Florida, which is second in number only to California, where there have been just 17 executions since the death penalty resumed in 1976. Florida has had 92, which is the fourth most in the nation.

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