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Florida governor signs new death penalty law requiring unanimous decision

[JURIST] Florida Governor Rick Scott [official website] signed a new bill [SB 280, materials] on Monday declaring that the death penalty may only be imposed by a judge upon unanimous recommendation from the jury. Florida's executions have been on hold [Reuters report] since January 2016, when the US Supreme Court [official website] held [opinion, PDF] that the state's death penalty law violated the Sixth Amendment by allowing judges to override jury recommendations. In October the Florida Supreme Court [official website] also dismissed [opinion, PDF] a version of the law that allowed the death penalty upon the recommendation of 10 jurors. According to the court, the law [JURIST report] had "failed to require the jury, rather than the judge, to find the facts necessary to impose the death sentence." Florida currently has 382 inmates on death row, and it is unclear when executions may resume. The Florida Supreme Court has already declared [JURIST report] that prosecutors may still seek the death penalty in ongoing cases.

The death penalty has been a pressing issue across the country. Last week the Arkansas Supreme Court [official website] issued an order [JURIST report] stating there is no stay in place preventing the execution of eight inmates schedule for next month. Last month the Mississippi house approved a bill [JURIST report] allowing firing squad executions. Also last month a judge for the US District Court for the Southern District of Ohio refused to lift [JURIST report] a preliminary injunction that delays executions in Ohio. In January Judge Michael Merz blocked [JURIST report] Ohio's lethal injection protocol by deeming it unconstitutional under the Eighth Amendment. Also in January the US Supreme Court refused [JURIST report] to consider a challenge to Alabama's death penalty system. In December a report by the Death Penalty Information Center found that the use of capital punishment in the US is at a 20-year low [JURIST report].

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