WHAT HAPPENED?

The defendant in this case was sentenced to death in Florida. In Florida, the death penalty stage of the trial takes two parts, where the jury must first decide whether an aggravating factor is present to qualify the defendant for the death penalty and then the judge takes the jury’s recommendation to determine whether or not the death penalty should be administered.

WHY IS THIS BEFORE THE SUPREME COURT?

The Supreme Court has made rulings on death penalty procedure wherein the Supreme Court has shown a preference for the death penalty to be decided by the jury. In this case, there is a question over whether the decision is truly made by the jury when the judge has final approval over the decision.

AMENDMENT FROM THE PODCAST: In our episode regarding this case, we were under the impression that the judge’s decision only factors in when the jury has made a recommendation of death. This is incorrect, as the judge makes a final decision only after considering the jury’s decision either in favor or against the death penalty.

In addition, the jury may make a ruling in favor of death that is not unanimous, which is generally disfavored by the Supreme Court’s current jurisprudence on the Supreme Court.

WHAT IS THE RULING

This case is not yet decided.

WHAT ARE THE RAMIFICATIONS OF THIS DECISION?

Most States have death penalty statutes where the jury makes the final decision in cases of the death penalty, so Florida’s use of the jury in this case is outdated in the context of national law. Florida’s Death Penalty statute certainly makes it easier to find in favor of death, but in the same token, adding the extra level of judicial review could help the defendant avoid the death penalty in certain cases.

YOU SHOULD ROOT FOR HURST IF YOU:

You prefer a more updated, modern Death Penalty statute, where the decision to sentence someone to death is held solely in the hands of citizens chosen randomly through jury duty.

YOU SHOULD ROOT FOR FLORIDA IF YOU:

You prefer a vintage death penalty statute, where the decision to sentence someone to death is held in the same Florida public officials which ruined the 2000 Presidential election.

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