The U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments over the constitutionality
of Florida’s death penalty. The main challenge is over
the process of how Florida hands down a death penalty, and not whether Florida is allowed to use the death penalty. This case
comes in the face of what seems a yearly challenge to some aspect of the
death penalty from some state.
Last year the High Court heard and denied a challenge about the kind of
chemical used in lethal injections in Oklahoma. That case,
Glossip v. Gross, failed on a 5-4 vote. Now this year the challenge will come from Florida,
and it has some big supporters. No less than three former Florida Supreme
Court justices and the American Bar Association are backing the law.
Facts about the Case
The challenge is going to the U.S. Supreme Court after
losing in the Florida Supreme Court. The petitioner was convicted of a murdering an employee during a robbery
at a local restaurant in Escambia County, Florida. The facts of what actually
happened were quite grisly and gruesome, and at trial the petitioner was
convicted after the prosecution and defense both had a chance to present
their cases. The verdict came down after only six hours of deliberation.
Following the actual trial, the court had to decide the sentence. To do
so the jury was asked to make a decision on whether the case had aggravating
circumstances, because under Florida law a death sentence cannot be passed
unless it is shown there was aggravating circumstances. And in this case
the jury found that there were aggravating circumstances on a 11-1 vote.
Challenge to Constitutionality of Law and Process
The case is focused on the different roles that the jury and judge play
in a capital case that decides whether a defendant can be sentenced to
death. The petitioner is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to decide the following,
specific questions on whether:
Recent Supreme Court decisions apply to Florida’s death penalty scheme;
A jury’s decision on whether there are aggravating circumstances
must be unanimous;
A jury must decide whether a defendant suffers from mental retardation; and,
The lack a unanimous decision by the jury offends the evolving concepts
If the petitioner successfully pleads these questions, his case will not
be overturned, but he would get a chance to escape death-row and have
his case heard and decided again on whether he will face the death penalty
in the future.
How this case is decided could have major implications in the future. But
because it is not on whether the death penalty is constitutional per se,
it would not wipe out the death penalty across the country.
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The Pittman Firm our practice is focused on personal injury cases and fighting for victims.
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See related blog posts:
Supreme Court Strikes Down Congressional Districts;
Has the Right to Die with Dignity Been Resuscitated?