Ron DeSantis Says Florida Shouldn’t Require Unanimous Juries for Death Sentences
While addressing a gathering of law enforcement officers on Monday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, said he hopes to change state law to make it easier to execute convicted criminals.
Calling it “one of the things we have to address,” DeSantis said that a “supermajority” of jurors ought to be sufficient to sentence someone to death.
“If just one juror vetoes it, then you end up not getting the sentence,” DeSantis said during remarks delivered at the Florida Sheriffs Association Conference. “Maybe eight out of 12 have to agree, or something, but we can’t be in a situation where one person can just derail this.”
DeSantis was expressing his frustration with the decision of a jury in November to sentence Nikolas Cruz, who killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018, to life in prison rather than handing down the death penalty. Despite the governor’s description of the jury, FloridaPolitics.com notes that there were three jurors, not just one, who refused to impose the death penalty.
Prior to 2016, Florida allowed juries to impose the death penalty with as little as a 7-to-5 majority. That changed after the state Supreme Court ruled in 2016 that “the jury’s recommended sentence of death must be unanimous” in order to comport with the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishments. In a separate case decided at the same time, the state’s high court invalidated a newly passed law that would have allowed the death penalty if 10 of the 12 jurors recommended it.
A year later, the state legislature and then–Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican, approved a new law requiring unanimous juries in death penalty decisions.
While DeSantis’ remarks on Monday were somewhat vague, it would appear the governor is preparing to revisit the territory staked out by that overturned 2016 law that wo
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