You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to myPalmBeachPost.com

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.

GREAT REASONS TO SUBSCRIBE TODAY!

  • IN-DEPTH REPORTING
  • INTERACTIVE STORYTELLING
  • NEW TOPICS & COVERAGE
  • ePAPER
X

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks

X

Welcome to myPalmBeachPost.com

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on myPalmBeachPost.com.

Florida death penalty fix on the fast track in Legislature


A proposal that would require unanimous jury recommendations for death sentences to be imposed sailed through its first House vetting Wednesday, receiving unanimous approval from the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee.

The legislation (HB 527), and a similar Senate measure (SB 280), is the latest attempt to get the state’s death penalty — on hold for more than a year — back on track in the wake of a series of court rulings.

The issues began with a U.S. Supreme Court decision in January 2016 finding that the state’s capital sentencing system was unconstitutional because it gave too much power to judges, instead of juries.

Lawmakers quickly passed a measure to address the court ruling, which did not address the issue of jury unanimity. The new law included a component that did away with simple majority recommendations for death to be imposed, and instead required at least 10 jurors to agree on death sentences.

But the Florida Supreme Court in October struck down the new law as an unconstitutional violation of the right to trial by jury and said unanimous recommendations are required.

Buddy Jacobs, a lobbyist who represents the Florida Prosecuting Attorneys Association, urged the Criminal Justice Subcommittee on Wednesday to quickly pass the new bill to fix the death penalty.

“We have 50 cases ready to be tried in Florida. Some are picking juries as we speak. This is a real crisis in the criminal justice system, and it’s a real crisis for the victim’s families of these terrible, terrible crimes,” he said.

But defense lawyers, who repeatedly cautioned lawmakers last year against approving a law that did not require unanimity, maintain that the state still has work to do to fix the death penalty statute.

Public defenders contend that the current law is not narrow enough to capture the “worst of the worst,” something that courts look for when evaluating death penalty laws. Florida, one of only two states that does not require unanimous jury recommendations for death, is an “outlier,” 10th Judicial Circuit Public Defender Rex Dimmig said Wednesday.

“Florida will continue to be an outlier after this bill is passed. If Florida is to continue to have a death penalty, comprehensive reform is needed,” he said.

But bill sponsor Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor, said lawmakers have a duty to ensure that Floridians “have access to justice” in the form of the death penalty.

“The only way to ensure that is to have a constitutional statute, and that’s what we’re doing,” he said.

The House and Senate measures face their second committee hearings next week before heading to the floor for full votes. The annual legislative session starts March 7.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Politics

Palm Beach County worried about proposed hike in homestead exemption
Palm Beach County worried about proposed hike in homestead exemption

Legislation that could lead to the expansion of Florida’s homestead exemption could blow a $29 million hole in Palm Beach County’s budget, county officials warn. The Florida House of Representatives is expected to vote Wednesday on a joint resolution (HJR 7105) that would have voters decide if they want to increase the homestead exemption...
Trump expected to order study of federal role in education
Trump expected to order study of federal role in education

 President Donald Trump is expected to sign an executive order today that would require Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to study how the federal government "has unlawfully overstepped state and local control," according to a White House official.   Trump has repeatedly pledged to downsize the Education Department and its role...
Trump changes course on childcare benefit after criticism he would mainly help well-off families
Trump changes course on childcare benefit after criticism he would mainly help well-off families

 The White House is pursuing a new approach to providing relief for families burdened by childcare costs after receiving criticism that a campaign proposal would have done little to help working-class families while providing disproportionate benefits to well-off parents.   President Donald Trump's administration is now looking to bolster...
White House scurries as 100-day mark nears
White House scurries as 100-day mark nears

The final frenzy at the White House began Monday, with a private reception for conservative news publications, a tariff on softwood lumber imports from Canada and the late-night debut of a website highlighting President Donald Trump's "First 100 Days" achievements.   It continued Tuesday in the form of an executive order designed...
PBC commissioners blast workforce housing program’s poor performance
PBC commissioners blast workforce housing program’s poor performance

Palm Beach County commissioners blasted a county program designed to provide housing to middle income workers in the county, saying it has not provided enough assistance while costs continue to rise. No single family houses have been built in the workforce housing program’s 11 years of existence, and only 754 multi-family units have...
More Stories