Senate vote sends Florida's death penalty fix to Gov. Rick Scott
The Senate approved changes Thursday to Florida's death penalty law that were declared unconstitutional, sending the bill to Gov. Rick Scott for his signature. If Scott signs the bill into law as expected, death penalty legal experts predict a wave of new litigation challenging it.
Florida's death row population of 389 inmates is the second highest of any state. But executions have been on hold since Jan. 12 when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Florida's sentencing law as a violation of the right to a jury trial because the jury's role is advisory.
The new law (HB 7101) requires juries to vote for every reason -- known as aggravating factors -- to warrant imposition of a death sentence, and a trial judge must sign a written order confirming the jury's findings. The Legislature also required that at least 10 of 12 jurors in future capital cases must agree on a recommendation of death, repealing the current requirement of a simple majority jury recommendation.
The Senate vote was 35-5. Republican Thad Altman of Melbourne joined Democrats Jeff Clemens of Lake Worth, Bill Montford of Tallahassee, Jeremy Ring of Margate and Geraldine Thompson of Orlando in voting against it.