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Senate Votes for 10-2 Death Jury

March 2nd, 2016 by Mike Vasilinda

Florida is one step closer to having a death penalty on the books once again. The US Supreme Court told lawmakers in January it wanted more jury involvement in the decision to impose death. Now as Mike Vasilinda tells us, lawmakers are responding with legislation likely to be challenged.

New death penalty legislation requires a unanimous jury to agree on at least one factor that is so heinous or cruel that it makes a crime eligible for a death. Sen. Greg Evers read from the US Supreme Court decision.

“A defendant has the right to have a jury, not th judge, find the fact necessary to impose a sentence of death” read the Senate Criminal Justice Chair.

But the Senate was closely divided on whether after the first vote, a ten-two jury recommendation was enough, or if a jury should be unanimous in a recommendation for death.

Sen. Darren Soto (D-Orlando) says a unanimous jury leaves no doubts.

“There should be no doubt among any of the jurors is that this is the right thing to do” says Soto.

Supporters of the 10-2 recommendation say the decision was a compromise with the House, which wants a 9-3 vote.

“If we do not come to an agreement and fix this, then there will be justice delayed for victims and victims families” said Sen. rob Bradley, who helped work out the compromise.

State Senator Geraldine Thomson, whose husband is a retired judge, says the compromise is a mistake.

“Judges are uncertain in regard to what the jury really decided. And with a unanimous verdict, they know without question that this is the will of the jury” says Thompson.

Prosecutors pushed hard for the ten-two recommendation. Had it not been for that pressure, the Senate likely would have gone with a unanimous verdict.

Bill Cervone is the State Attorney in Gainesville (8th Circuit)

“The fundamental problem prosecutors have is giving the opportunity for one or two jurors to highjack the entire process” says Cervone.

Only Alabama and Delaware require less than a unanimous jury in a death case.

The legislation does not speak to the fate of the men and women already on death row. Attorneys are arguing that all 389 should receive life sentences. Prosecutors believe only those inmates who appeals are not finished are likely to have their sentence reduced to life.

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