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Wednesday, January 13, 2016

WHERE HURST WENT WRONG

The United States Supreme Court found Florida's death penalty statute unconstitutional in Hurst v. Florida.  
But the court dropped the ball. Or more accurately the court didn't even take a swing at a hanging curve ball. 

Here's what the United Supreme Court did: it invalidated Florida's death penalty statute because the judge instead of the jury is the ultimate decider of whether the defendant should be sentenced to death: 

The State fails to appreciate the central and singular role the judge plays under Florida law. As described above and by the Florida Supreme Court, the Florida sentencing statute does not make a defendant eligible for death until “findings by the court that such person shall be punished by death.” Fla. Stat. §775.082(1) (emphasis added). The trial court alone must find “the facts . . . [t]hat sufficient aggravating circumstances exist” and “[t]hat there are insufficient mitigating circumstances to outweigh the aggravating circumstances.” §921.141(3); see Steele, 921 So. 2d, at 546. “[T]he jury’s function under the Florida death penalty statute is advisory only.” Spaziano v. State, 433 So. 2d 508, 512 (Fla. 1983). The State cannot now treat the advisory recommendation by the jury as the necessary factual finding that Ring requires.

Here's what the court didn't do: invalidate  Florida death penalty statute because it allows a jury to recommend a sentence of death by less than a unanimous vote. 

So as you are reading this blog,  there are legislators in Tallahassee who, between expectorating mouth-fulls of tobacco juice, are mulling around saying "so all we have to do is re-write this doggone law and let the damn jury decide to fry the defendant. An it don't even have to be unanimous. So lets go get Jim-bob, he knows how to use that dang computer writer thingy. "

Considering the legislature's prior well known distaste for allowing judge's any say in sentencing, this shouldn't be too difficult for the denizens of Tallahassee. 

Hurst was a win. Just not a big win. 

See you in court. 

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thank God you didn't give the Court any credit. After all, only the good guys can get us a goo result. But maybe, they were doing it one step at a time, like a serious court should, and not quite as interested in writing laws that might piss people off unnecessarily. If only all judges could be progressive liberals. It would be such a better world.

Real fake Scalia said...

Courts don't write laws. Legislatures do.

Fake Alito. said...

Amen brother.

Anonymous said...

To an extent, you aren't wrong, Rump. But the first hurdle was the fact that the judge decides, not the jury. The issue of a jury deciding by majority vote just wasn't in front of them. They couldn't go further than that which was in front of them. I completely agree that the majority vote is total garbage as well (and for that matter the death penalty), but the USSC's hand were tied with regards to this.

Anonymous said...

the situation is getting bad .......your blog is getting too boring.......i think its because those ham and egger criminal lawyers lack imagination

Anonymous said...

1:12 p.m., the blog is getting boring because it is losing its essence as Rumpole leaves out Shumie and Ren comments.

Fake Judge Brennan said...

Dont worry SAO, I dont have any briefs to draft for the AG's office this week, so I'll draft the new death penalty statute for the legislature. We will make this stick and no supreme court will be able to crack it. The death penalty will live forever.

The Professor said...
This comment has been removed by the author.