Orlando top prosecutor requests death penalty trial delays

[JURIST] Florida State Attorney Jeff Ashton [profile] is requesting that state judges temporarily delay death penalty case trials after the US Supreme Court [official website] ruling [opinion, PDF] that Florida's capital sentencing scheme violates the Sixth Amendment. The request, he stated, is being made as a precaution [AP report] until lawmakers are able to address the Supreme Court's concerns while the legislature is in session. Ashton first spoke publicly [Orlando Sentinel report] on the Hurst v. Florida [docket] ruling on Thursday, initially expressing his belief that the ruling would not have much impact on local cases and would only apply in rare circumstances. This comes just days after Florida's Supreme Court denied a request [JURIST report] from a death row inmate to delay his execution in light of the recent US Supreme Court ruling. The court did, however, agree to hear oral arguments on whether the recent ruling could be applied retroactively.

Use of the death penalty [JURIST news archive] has been a controversial issue throughout the US. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court in December upheld [JURIST report] the authority of Governor Tom Wolf [official website] to postpone executions in the commonwealth. In October the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals unanimously granted [JURIST report] a request from Attorney General Scott Pruitt to halt all of the state's scheduled executions to allow for an investigation into why the prison received incorrect lethal injection drugs. In June the US Supreme Court held that the use of the drug midazolam may be used in executions [JURIST report] without violating the constitution. In April the Tennessee Supreme Court postponed the execution [JURIST report] of four inmates on death row while it determines whether current protocols are constitutional, effectively halting all executions in the state. Also in April the Delaware Senate voted to repeal [JURIST report] the death penalty, but the legislation included an exemption for the 15 inmates currently on death row.

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