Florida lawmakers amend death penalty law

[JURIST] The Florida legislature sent Governor Rick Scott [official page] a bill [HB 7101 materials] on Thursday revamping the state's death penalty law. The changes are in response to the US Supreme Court ruling in January that the state's current sentencing scheme is unconstitutional [JURIST report]. The new legislation requires jurors to be unanimous on aggravating factors and for 10 of 12 jurors to recommend execution. The uncertainty in the law has forced the state to delay scheduled executions [JURIST article]. The previous law was deemed unconstitutional because the state permitted judges to determined whether an individual should be sentenced to death rather than the jury. The bill passed the state Senate and House of Representatives and is awaiting approval by the governor.

Capital punishment [JURIST op-ed] remains a controversial issue in the US and worldwide. In February the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit [official website] rejected [opinion, PDF] a Georgia death row inmate's legal challenge [JURIST report] to the death penalty. In January Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood [official website] stated that he plans to ask lawmakers to approve the firing squad, electrocution or nitrogen gas as alternate methods of execution [press release] if the state prohibits lethal injection [JURIST reports]. The US Supreme Court in January ruled [JURIST report] in Kansas v. Carr [opinion, PDF] that a jury in a death penalty case does not need to be advised that mitigating factors, which can lessen the severity of a criminal act, do not need to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt like aggravating factors.

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