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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

AG Pam Bondi: Florida needs to change death penalty statutes



Hours after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Florida's death penalty sentencing procedures as unconstitutiona, Attorney General Pam Bondi has weighed in.

“In light of today’s United States Supreme Court decision holding Florida’s capital sentencing procedure unconstitutional, the state will need to make changes to its death-sentencing statutes," she said in a written statement. "I will work with state lawmakers this legislative session to ensure that those changes comply with the Court’s latest decision. The impact of the Court’s ruling on existing death sentences will need to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.”

Lawmakers have already said they will consider changes to the death penalty to conform to the court's ruling. Namely, they'll have to change state law so that juries issue death sentences. Current law gives that power to the judge, who can choose to ignore a jury's recommendation.

What remains unclear is how two men -- Michael Ray Lambrix and Mark James Asay -- whose executions are already scheduled for February and March would be affected. Both convicted murderers were sentenced to death under the old, now unconstitutional rules.

Earlier in the day, Bondi said she had not had time to read the court's 8-1 decision in Hurst v. Florida. She said the effects on current death row inmates as well as pending cases in courts across the state were, "my first question, and that's what we're looking at right now."

What she has clarified is that the Legislature will have to act.

"We're reviewing it right now to see if we need a legislative  change or if we can still try death cases," Bondi said earlier.



[Last modified: Tuesday, January 12, 2016 6:20pm]


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