October 19, 2015
On October 13, the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) heard oral arguments in Hurst v. Florida regarding Florida's capital sentencing practices. SCOTUS will consider whether Florida violates their 2002 decision in Ring v. Arizona which found that a jury, and not a judge, must find that a defendant qualifies for the death penalty. After Ring, every state, except Florida, amended their statutes to require a unanimous finding of aggravating circumstances.
Additionally, almost every state amended their statutes to require a unanimous jury recommendation of death. Florida is one of only three states in the country that allows someone to be put to death based on a non-unanimous recommendation of jurors (Alabama requires a 10-2 supermajority jury vote while Florida and Delaware only require a simple majority vote of 7-5).
In anticipation of the 2016 legislative session, two bills have been filed that would remedy these concerns. SB 330 (Altman) and HB 157 (Rodriguez, J.) require:
- A jury unanimously determine the existence of aggravating circumstances
- Jurors be unanimous in recommending the death penalty
While Florida's Catholic bishops do not support the use of the death penalty, SB 330 and HB 157 improve our state's capital sentencing process by encouraging more thoughtful deliberation among jurors and ensuring a more reliable sentencing process.
ACTION: Please send a message to your Florida state senator and representative to urge that SB 330 and HB 157 are taken up for consideration and passed.