Hurst v. Florida Opinion Break Down

Posted: January 18, 2016 by beguide in Criminal Procedure, Death Penalty, Dissent, Opinion Breakdown, Updates

Background: Florida’s Death Penalty Statute asks the jury for a recommendation on death after the jury makes factual-findings. The Judge takes those findings and can make any decision within those findings.

Opinion can be found at

Sotomayor – Majority Decision (8-1)



The Florida statute is unconstitutional. Previous Supreme Court cases have required that any finding by the judge has to be supported by factual findings made by the Judge, which this does not. This case also gives too much power to the judge and not enough power to the jury, which is a violation of our decision in Ring. Finally, even though we’ve held that this statute was fine in 2002, logic and subsequent cases have washed away the logic of previous decisions. Kind of like boy bands and white-guy rap metal.

Breyer – Concurrence

Breyer joins the decision here out of practicality and not principal. Breyer sees bigger issues with the judge making the decision over the jury. This opinion reads like Breyer is saving his bullets for bigger decisions later on.

Alito – Dissent

All of this is wrong. Ring v AZ, which required juries make the death penalty decision, was wrong and this extension of Ring is also wrong. The majority is wrong that the judge takes precedence over the jury, and the defendant here is wrong because even if this process was faulty, it doesn’t change the fact that he would have been sentenced to die either way.

  1. […] Delaware Supreme Court held that, in light of the Federal Supreme Court’s holding in Hurst v. Florida, Delaware’s death penalty is in violation of the Federal Constitution because it is imposed […]


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