In an 8-1 decision SCOTUS has ruled that the death penalty scheme in Florida is unconstitutional under the 6th Amendment.
In Hurst v. Florida the justices, through Justice Sotomeyor stated:
Any fact that “expose[s] the defendant to a greater punishment
than that authorized by the jury’s guilty verdict” is an “element” that
must be submitted to a jury. Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U. S. 466,
494.Applying Apprendi to the capital punishment context, the Ring
Court had little difficulty concluding that an Arizona judge’s independent factfinding exposed Ring to a punishment greater than the
jury’s guilty verdict authorized. 536 U. S., at 604. Ring’s analysis
applies equally here. Florida requires not the jury but a judge to
make the critical findings necessary to impose the death penalty.
That Florida provides an advisory jury is immaterial. See Walton v.
Arizona, 497 U. S. 639, 648. As with Ring, Hurst had the maximum
authorized punishment he could receive increased by a judge’s own
That this Court upheld Florida’s capital sentencing scheme in
Hildwin v. Florida, 490 U. S. 638, and Spaziano v. Florida, 468 U. S.
447, does not mean that stare decisis compels the Court to do so here,
see Alleyne v. United States, 570 U. S. ___, ___ (SOTOMAYOR, J., concurring). Time and subsequent cases have washed away the logic of
Spaziano and Hildwin. Those decisions are thus overruled to the extent they allow a sentencing judge to find an aggravating circumstance, independent of a jury’s factfinding, that is necessary for imposition of the death penalty. "
It should be noted the court specifically refused to rule on the State's argument of a harmless error in this case, so what does this mean? Are all death row inmates now entitled to re-sentencing hearings? Death qualified juries for all? Commutation of sentences? The emptying of death row? It would appear that way.
Put your pen away Governor Scott. No more warrants for now.
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