November 9, 2016
On October 14, the Florida Supreme Court in Hurst v. Florida found that a new law requiring a 10-2 jury decision to impose a death sentence was unconstitutional. Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Florida's death penalty system prompting the Florida legislature to pass a bill that requires at least ten jurors agree in order to sentence someone to death. This was an improvement over previous law that only required a simple majority of jurors (7 of 12) to recommend a death sentence. However, noting that unanimous juries provide the highest degree of reliability, the state's highest court found the new law insufficient.
On the same day, the Florida Supreme Court found in Perry v. Florida that the unconstitutional statute cannot be applied to pending prosecutions. The court has yet to release an opinion addressing whether the Hurst ruling will apply retroactively.
In response to the court's rulings, lawmakers will be tasked for the second year in a row with addressing the state's death-penalty sentencing scheme during their annual legislative session. Guided by the words of St. John Paul II in Evangelium Vitae (no. 73), the FCCB has supported incremental improvements in law as acceptable steps towards the full restoration of justice, including a unanimous jury requirement to minimize harm until our state ends the use of the death penalty.
"The new evangelization calls for followers of Christ who are unconditionally pro-life: who will proclaim, celebrate and serve the Gospel of life in every situation. A sign of hope is the increasing recognition that the dignity of human life must never be taken away, even in the case of someone who has done great evil. Modern society has the means of protecting itself, without definitively denying criminals the chance to reform." - St. John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life), no. 28