One of every four death sentences handed out nationally in 2012 was in Florida, which is one of only two states with the death penalty that doesn’t require a unanimous jury verdict. At least one state lawmaker wants to make it harder for judges to hand out death sentences.
Tampa cop killer Humberto Delgado arrived on death row last year after his jury recommended he be put to death by an 8 to 4 vote. In December, William Davis’ jury split 7-5 even though he had asked them for death. Neither man would have received death in any of the other 32 states that have the death penalty.
That’s because thirty-one other states require all members of the jury to vote for death. The 32nd, Alabama, requires at least 10 of the 12 jurors to say someone should die. Sheila Hopkins of the Florida Catholic Conference, says it is time for Florida to join the rest of the nation. “You know I think people should be very concerned and disturbed that potentially people who can be innocent would be given a death sentence”, says Hopkins.
Florida led the nation last year, imposing 22 death sentences; it executed just three people. State Attorney Willie Meggs currently has seven people on death row. He says the legislation would change the way he picks a jury making him select only death penalty supporters, but he says it would not change the eventual outcome. “I don’ t believe that Florida has executed an innocent person in our history”, says Meggs.
There are currently 407 people on Florida’s death row; that includes five women.