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April 01, 2017

Florida Death Penalty

Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed legislation March 13 that requires a unanimous jury recommendation before a judge can impose the death penalty. The new law, which was passed overwhelmingly by the Florida House and Senate, came after the Florida Supreme Court ruled in October 2016 that the death penalty cannot be imposed without the unanimous support of a jury. Previous law required a 10-2 jury vote for the death penalty to be imposed. The Florida action is in line with policy adopted in 2015 by the ABA that emphasizes the importance of jury unanimity in death penalty sentencing. The policy was designed to complement the ABA’s other extensive policies and principles reflecting its longstanding and strong support of jury verdict unanimity in all cases, not just in death penalty trials. Although the ABA takes no position on capital punishment generally, the association has extensively studied the operation of the death penalty in the U.S. criminal justice system and has taken the position that governments should take great care to ensure that death penalty cases are administered fairly and impartially in accordance with due process and in a way that minimizes the risk that innocent persons may be executed. In correspondence to the Florida Legislature in 2015, then ABA President William C. Hubbard emphasized that “with a decision as serious and irreversible as imposing the death penalty,” the ABA believes that “the vote of the jury should be unanimous both in its fact-finding role on the aggravating circumstances that legally allow consideration of a death sentence and in the ultimate determination that permits a court to impose a sentence of death.”


Back to the April 2017 Washington Letter