In October of 2016, Florida’s Supreme Court held that the state’s death penalty law was unconstitutional. Since then, prosecutors were left wondering whether this ruling affected cases that were currently being prosecuted. Now, the state’s Supreme Court has clarified this issue.
Florida Supreme Court Allows Current Death Penalty Cases to Continue
Despite the ongoing issues surrounding the constitutionality of Florida death penalty laws, prosecutors will be permitted to seek the death penalty in ongoing cases. The uncertainty all began when a Florida jury was split 7-5 over whether a defendant deserved the death penalty, but the judge imposed the death penalty anyway. Florida’s Supreme Court ultimately upheld the defendant’s sentence, but the U.S. Supreme Court held that the ruling was unconstitutional in the case of Hurst v. Florida. The U.S. Supreme Court held that Florida judges had too much power in making a death sentence determination, which left Florida lawmakers scrambling to fix the law.
The Florida Legislature overhauled the law, allowing juries to impose a death sentence verdict with a 10-2 jury vote. Even so, the state court still voted 5-2 to strike this law down in October of 2016, holding that a unanimous jury verdict is required for the death penalty.
In spite of the issues and uncertainties regarding the state’s death penalty, prosecutors now have the full understanding that they may proceed in seeking the death penalty. Further, the death penalty may be applied in these cases, so long as the jury comes to a unanimous recommendation in favor of capital punishment.
In January of 2017, the court had released an opinion indicating that the death penalty could not be applied to any pending cases, but the opinion was withdrawn and retracted in just a few hours after it was issued. Naturally, this provided only more confusion for both prosecutors and criminal defense lawyers.
Now, however, it seems there is finally enough certainty to say once and for all that prosecutors have the authority to seek the death penalty in pending cases. As a result, Florida defendants should know that the limbo of Florida death penalty laws cannot be used to avoid capital punishment.
If prosecutors pursue the death penalty and jurors are unanimously in favor of imposing the death sentence, defendants will be sentenced to death. For this reason, defendants charged with serious offenses that may lead to the death penalty need a Florida criminal defense lawyer who will raise every possible legal defense.
From his Destin office, John F. Greene represents criminal defendants and strives to have their charges reduced or dismissed entirely. John represents Destin defendants as well as defendants throughout Northwest Florida and the Emerald Coast, including Santa Rosa, Walton, Bay and Okaloosa Counties. John also represents Florida defendants in the communities of Destin, Niceville, Fort Walton Beach, Panama City and Santa Rosa Beach.
If you need a Florida criminal defense lawyer who provides criminal defendants with the legal defense they need against any and all charges, contact Destin defense attorney John F. Greene or call 850-424-6833.