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.