Governor Rick Scott signed Florida’s new death sentence law as legal efforts by several death row inmates mounted in an effort to stay alive, contending that they were sentenced under a system that has been declared unconstitutional.
The inmates have asked the Florida Supreme Court to reduce their death sentences to life imprisonment without parole. Among the inmates are a man convicted of killing a sheriff’s deputy and a man who raped and murdered Tampa mother of three as she went jogging. The Justices will consider the appeals of several of the death row inmates who argue that their sentences are no longer valid due to the fact that the law that was in effect at the time of their conviction has been held unconstitutional.
Capital punishment has been on hold since early January when the U.S. Supreme Court held that the state’s sentencing system was a violation of a defendant’s right to a jury trial. Florida’s Attorney General has said that as many as 43 inmates could have their death sentence reduced to life as a result of the Supreme Court’s decision.
The new law requires that juries in future capital cases must agree unanimously and in writing on the aggravating factors before imposing a death sentence. It further requires that at least 10 of 12 jurors agree on a recommendation of death. Every other state in the country except Alabama and Delaware require unanimous jury votes when sentencing someone to death.
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