Tags: Law Enforcement | exonerations | deterrent | alabama | death penalty

Florida's Reckless Death Penalty Legacy

 state supreme court buildings in tallahassee florida

Tallahassee, Fla. - Florida Sate Supreme Court buildings. (Gadzius/Dreamstime)

By Thursday, 30 January 2020 09:18 AM Current | Bio | Archive

It was only in 2016 that the Florida State Supreme Court first outlawed non-unanimous juries in death penalty trials. Now, in a stunning decision, the court has reversed this decision and claims the previous judges "got it wrong."

"Last, lest there be any doubt, we hold that our state Constitution’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment … does not require a unanimous jury recommendation — or any jury recommendation — before a death sentence can be imposed," wrote Chief Justice Charles Canady and justices Ricky Polston, Alan Lawson, and Carlos Muniz in the majority opinion.

Obviously, the allowance of non-unanimous juries in any case, especially a capital one, is a blatant and vicious affront to the foundations upon which our country and justice system were predicated. But in Florida, a state that has consistently ranked in the top three of those that carry out the most executions and that leads the country with the most exonerations from death row (29), there aren’t words strong enough to describe this utter arrogance and base corruption.

In the almost four years since the state was told to act like it had a constitutional bone in its body, it still produced the largest number of new death sentences in 2019 (seven).

Clearly, this is a place that needs higher standards for imposing the death penalty, not lower ones (though I would argue their complete ineptitude is reason enough to remove their power over life and death all together).

In order to bring its laws into compliance with the 2016 decision, Florida’s legislature passed a bill in 2017 that would require the jury to make a unanimous recommendation of death before a judge could impose a death sentence. Whether or not the legislature and executive will continue to uphold this law after the new court’s decision remains to be seen.

Only two other states have ever allowed for this charade of justice in its courts — Delaware and Alabama.

Similarly to Florida, Delaware’s supreme court also struck down their statute in 2016, making Alabama the only remaining state with this backwards law (insert Alabama joke here).

From 2010 to 2015, non-unanimous juries accounted for more than 20 percent of new death sentences in the U.S. and (quite obviously) contributed to a disproportionate number of death row exonerations.

Does anyone really believe any of this is OK?

Over half the country has realized the innate flaws within the death penalty and stopped using it. 21 states have legislatively repealed it, four others have moratoriums imposed, and a third of the remaining states have not used in a decade or more.

States that use the death penalty are in the minority.

Among them, Florida is an extreme outlier.

The death penalty is not a deterrent, and if anything, the data suggests the opposite – it’s a huge opportunity cost that wastes millions of dollars, while failing to make us safer, prevent violence in the first place, or increase the number of crimes that are solved.

Florida alone spends about $24 million per execution and over $50 million a year maintaining its system. These back and forth hot potatoes in the court only add to that expense. New sentencing schemes create chaos and lead to new litigation, and that’s just the fiscal cost. The impact on victims’ families and others connected to the court system are another social costs.

And on top of all of that are the significant risk to innocent life, the socioeconomic and racial bias pervasive in the system, and the always present problems of corruption with the government and its processes.

This is why conservatives like me are pro-limited government. We know it is fallible, prone to error, never a defender of the individual or his rights, and inefficient. It’s time we take the power of life and death out of their hands once and for all.

States like Florida and its operations are more than enough evidence of this.

Hannah Cox is the National Manager of Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty. Hannah was previously Director of Outreach for the Beacon Center of Tennessee, a free-market think tank. Prior to that, she was Director of Development for the Tennessee Firearms Association and a policy advocate for the National Alliance on Mental Illness. To read more of her reports — Click Here Now.

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Conservatives like me are pro-limited government. We know it is fallible, prone to error, never a defender of the individual or his rights, and inefficient. It’s time we take the power of life and death out of their hands once and for all.
exonerations, deterrent, alabama, death penalty
Thursday, 30 January 2020 09:18 AM
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