Florida death penalty sentencing system unconstitutional, state Supreme Court says

The court on Friday struck down a newly enacted law allowing a defendant to be sentenced to death as long as 10 out of 12 jurors recommend

Florida is second only to California in the number of people on death row.

Justices in their ruling did reject a request that all 385 inmates on Florida's death row have their sentences reduced to life in prison.

In a 5-2 ruling, the Supreme Court found the state death sentencing guidelines that were overhauled by the Legislature in response to a U.S. Supreme Court decision still violated the Sixth Amendment.

Gov. Rick Scott's office said he was reviewing the ruling and had no immediate comment.

Rob Smith said he believed many given the death sentence in Florida were among "the most impaired, most broken and most vulnerable" members of society. That law allowed a judge to issue a death sentence after a majority of jurors recommended capital punishment. This law was unconstitutional because the jury's finding of aggravating factors was useless when it came to taking the decision of sentencing a person to death.

The justices said that a new law allowing non-unanimous recommendations is unconstitutional.

Lawmakers changed the law this year to require at least 10 jurors recommending death. Justices Charles T. Canady and Ricky Polston were opposed. The decision means Florida does not now have a death penalty.

Perry said the decision throws the whole death penalty system into a state of flux. State legislators responded by overhauling the law. Racial disparities, over-zealous prosecutors and a lack of resources for defense counsel continue to plague death penalty cases.

The state had argued that the error was harmless, but in that January ruling, Justice Sonya Sotomayor wrote that the court disagreed but left it to the Florida Supreme Court to hash out who, if anyone, was harmed. Harrison, an assistant manager at a Popeye's Fried Chicken restaurant where Hurst worked, was bound, gagged and stabbed more than 60 times. Hurst reportedly bound and gagged Harrison, then stabbed her more than 60 times with a box cutter.

Only Florida, Alabama and DE allow executions without unanimous jury recommendations. The jury could make a recommendation but the judge had the final say.

So what does it mean for other death row inmates, like cop killer Dontae Morris? "That is antithetical to the rule of law and risky for our state".

That ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court led the state to halt two pending executions.

"Florida has had the death penalty for decades and they are still having problems getting it right".

"We are a nation of laws".

"We can go back for resentencing". This was a statute. "It's a real dilemma for the Legislature, the courts, everybody involved". "They should have listened to us all along".

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