In 2016, the Supreme Court of the United States, in Hurst v. Florida, held that Florida’s death penalty sentencing scheme violated one’s Sixth Amendment right because a jury must find the aggravating factors necessary for imposing a death sentence as opposed to solely by a judge.
In response, the Florida legislature revised the death penalty sentencing scheme and required that a death sentence recommendation must be supported by at least 10 jurors with life without parole as an alternative. However, in October 2016, the Florida Supreme Court struck down the new scheme and held that all death sentences must be accompanied by a unanimous jury recommendation before a sentence of death can be imposed. As such, prosecutors at the time were not allowed to seek the death penalty as there was no scheme to sentence under. However, the legislature has since fixed this problem and the governor signed new legislation in March, 2017, requiring a unanimous jury. Indeed, this presents a novel issue however as to how prior death sentences under the old law will be handled going forward. To date, over 40 prisoners under sentence of death have appeals pending before the Florida Supreme Court.
At the Law Offices of Paul Petruzzi, we applaud the decisions of the two courts. We agree that one’s right to a jury is the outmost essential of rights and most importantly when one is facing the ultimate sentence.