Supreme Court Strikes Down Death Penalty Law in Florida
The Supreme Court gets the final say when it comes to the laws in each state regarding the death penalty. Florida's current death penalty law has recently been considered unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court. Their reasoning behind this statement is that the state requires the trial judge to make the critical findings necessary when imposing capital punishment, when this should be the job of the jury. What does this mean for the death penalty law in Florida?
How this law affects past cases
The Supreme Court voted 8-1 and majority won. If you look at the sixth amendment, it requires that a jury find each fact necessary to impose a sentence of death, therefore a judge cannot add facts about a defendant's punishment. In order to come to this decision, the court looked at the ruling in Arizona back in 2002 known as Ring vs. Arizona. This new law means that several cases might have to be reevaluated in the lower courts. Currently, there are roughly 400 inmates on death row, and this ruling will have some sort of impact on what happens to these individuals. Officials expect a lot of these individuals will want to challenge their case to determine if it was unconstitutional.
Famous Florida Case
The new law will also mean a new sentencing in the hearing of Timothy Lee Hurst, a man who stabbed and murdered his Popeye's coworker back in 1998. Hurst was tried twice and the jury was divided. They recommended the death sentence, and the judge did impose one. Now that this death penalty law is considered unconstitutional, Hurst will get another hearing to determine his fate. Connie Fuselier is the mother of the man stabbed by Hurst. With news out about the Supreme Court stepping in, she has made remarks that she doesn't care what happens to Hurst at this point. It has been years since the incident and she can't bear the thought of going through more legal proceedings. Once it seems like it is over, something changes and she is put through hell again.
Decisions to be made
Oscar Ray Bolin Jr., sentenced to death for the murder of three women, was executed less than a week before the new law came out. This poses the question of what will happen with current death row inmates, specifically the ones who are scheduled for execution. Michael Ray Lambrix and Mark James Asay are two death row inmates who are scheduled to be put to death on February 11th and March 17th. Governor Rick Scott said that his office is in the process of reviewing the decision made by the Supreme Court and could not comment on these two men regarding their execution dates. Officials are trying to determine which prisoners the Hurst v. Florida ruling applies to. Attorney General Pam Bondi believes that Lambrix's execution date should remain the same because his final sentence was determined in 1996. This was years before the case in Arizona even took place.
We will have to continue staying up to date with how this new law will affect those already on death row, particularly for the two men who are set to be executed in the next two months.