Florida Governor Rick Scott on Monday scheduled [npr report] the execution of Mark Asay which will be the state’s first execution in nearly two years. The execution of death row inmates in Florida had been halted after their sentencing procedure was deemed unconstitutional [opinion, PDF] by the US Supreme Court. Initially the sentencing system involved a jury that recommended the sentence with a judge that was free to disregard the recommendation in finalizing the sentence. The procedure has since been amended [bill, PDF] in an attempt to fix the defects. A unanimous jury decision is now required for a recommendation of the death penalty. The execution of Asay is scheduled to take place on August 24.
The death penalty has become an increasingly controversial issue in recent years. In June, a federal appeals court reversed [JURIST report] a lower court decision and found Ohio’s execution protocol to be constitutional. In that same week, a federal judge ordered [JURIST report] major changes to Arizona death penalty procedures due to prisoner complaints. Earlier in June, the US Supreme Court ruled [JURIST report] that psychiatric assistance must be provided for indigent defendants sentenced to the death penalty. In May, the Delaware House of Representatives passed a bill [JURIST report] that would reinstate the death penalty. Florida’s new bill [JURIST report] declaring that the death penalty may only be imposed by a judge upon unanimous recommendation from the jury was signed into law in March. In January the US Supreme Court refused [JURIST report] to consider a challenge to Alabama’s death penalty system.