End of the unanimous jury for the death penalty in Florida

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R)

The eradication of the unanimous jury requirement for executions in Florida is a virtual certainty now that a bill allowing eight out of 12 jurors to vote to impose a death sentence is heading for Governor Ron DeSantis to signature.

The Florida Senate passed SB 450 on Thursday with a 29-10 vote that mostly went along party lines.

The legislative change was largely a reaction to the 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in which Nikolas Cruz killed 17 people.

Much to DeSantis’ chagrin, Cruz was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

“A juror shouldn’t be able to veto that,” DeSantis, a Republican, said at a news conference about Cruz narrowly avoiding the death penalty. “I don’t think justice has been served.”

In January, Rep. Berny Jacques (R-Seminole) and Sen. Blaise Ingoglia (R-Spring Hill) introduced identical bills to eliminate the requirement that jurors must vote unanimously before a conviction to death is pronounced.

The potential change to the unanimity requirement comes as Republicans in Florida are also trying to broaden the scope of the death penalty. Earlier in March, Sunshine State lawmakers introduced a bill that would allow not only murderers — as is currently the case — but also child rapists to be put to death for their crimes.

Changes to death penalty procedures are becoming a current trend: Idaho lawmakers recently opted to revive firing squads for executions that could not be carried out by lethal injection.

Florida’s bill striking down the requirement for a unanimous jury directly conflicts with US Supreme Court precedent, but the text of the bill states that this precedent was “ill-decided.”

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