Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill that will allow eight jurors to be enough to impose capital punishment in state cases, making Florida the fourth state that will not require a unanimous vote to impose the death sentence.
The legislation, SB 450, allows for a two-thirds supermajority vote of jurors, and seeks to change a precedent on unanimous jury votes, Florida Politics reported.
In 2020, a Florida Supreme Court decision in the case of State v. Poole removed a requirement that a jury vote be unanimous on imposing a death sentence, pending a law to describe the circumstances behind an order.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Supreme Court, in the 2016 Hurst v. Florida ruling, said a simple majority of jurors was not enough to vote to execute a person.
DeSantis earlier this year said he was interested in allowing executions in jury decisions that were not unanimous, telling the Florida Sheriff's Association that "maybe 8 out of 12 have to agree? Or something. But we can’t be in a situation where one person can just derail this."
DeSantis' call for a supermajority law came after the trial for Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz, who was sentenced to life without parole rather than the death penalty after he killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Valentine's Day in 2018.
Eventually, there were three votes not to execute him, but DeSantis said one person's "idiosyncratic" approach to the proceedings spared Cruz's life.
"I do think there are people who get on these juries who never intend to administer capital punishment," DeSantis said in January.
Another bill coming through the Florida Legislature, HB 1297, challenges the need for a unanimous jury vote to execute child rapists who attack children under the age of 12 years old. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Jessica Baker, has already passed in the House.
Sandy Fitzgerald ✉
Sandy Fitzgerald has more than three decades in journalism and serves as a general assignment writer for Newsmax covering news, media, and politics.
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