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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Pam Bondi: It's 'obvious' Supreme Court didn't halt death sentences in Florida

28

October

Confusion continues to surround Florida's death penalty after the state Supreme Court ruled two weeks ago that death sentences must be made on a unanimous jury vote.

That decision upended a new law passed this spring that required a 10-2 vote by the jury to sentence someone to death after they have already been found guilty. It led to questions about whether the Legislature must act before death sentences can commence.

Not so, says Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi. Death penalty trials should continue.

Still, Bondi's office has asked the Supreme Court to clarify its rulings in Hurst vs. Florida and Perry vs. Florida, the two death penalty cases the justices decided on Oct. 14 that ruled a split jury could not sentence someone to death.

"We're just seeking clarification toclarify for the trial courts and just state the obvious," Bondi said.

In fact, she said, a circuit court judge in Ocala "erred" last week when it put sentencing on hold in a double-murder case.

“The death penalty is still constitutional,” Judge Robert Hodges said, according to reports in the Ocala Star-Banner. “But the process to get there is gone.”

That's the argument that some death penalty defense lawyers have made in the weeks following the court's Hurst and Perry rulings.

Other questions remain unanswered about the death penalty in Florida, as well. Namely, what happens now to the 386 death-row inmates convicted and sentenced under thrown-out laws?

The question has caused stress among prosecutors who worry a mandate from the Supreme Court to retry cases or resentence convicted murderers would cause a catastrophic backlog.

But Bondi's not worried. Reporters asked Tuesday whether she thought there would be "hundreds of retrials and hundreds of resentencings"?

"I don't, I don't," she said.

[Last modified: Thursday, October 27, 2016 8:30pm]

    

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