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Supreme Court: Florida’s Death Penalty System Is Unconstitutional

The Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that Florida’s death penalty sentencing system is unconstitutional. Florida is one of only three states that do not require a unanimous jury verdict when sentencing someone to the death penalty. The current system requires juries to weigh factors for and against the death penalty, but the judge is not bound by their findings and can ultimately come to a different conclusion. The court ruled that this gives too much power to judges and not enough to juries. Not only will this ruling change future death sentences, but it also may allow over 390 current death row inmates a new cause for appeals. Florida’s solicitor general argued that the system was acceptable because a jury has to decide if a defendant is eligible for the death penalty, but Justice Sonia Sotomayor said, “A jury’s mere recommendation is not enough. The Sixth Amendment requires a jury, not a judge, to find each fact necessary to impose a sentence of death.”

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