TALLAHASSEE, FL – The Senate Rules Committee voted today to advance Senate Bill 450 (SB 450). This bill seeks to reintroduce the practice of nonunanimous jury recommendations for the death penalty, despite the Florida Supreme Court ruling in 2016 that doing so is unconstitutional. The bill would give just eight jurors out of twelve the power to recommend a death sentence in a capital case, and would make Florida’s threshold for death sentencing the lowest in the country, despite also having the greatest number of death row exonerations in the country.
The ACLU of Florida opposes this bill and its companion House Bill (HB 555).
Kara Gross, legislative director and senior policy counsel at the ACLU of Florida, responded with the following:
“Florida’s legal system requires unanimous juries in all other cases. It is unfathomable that a sentence that is both so final and far more expensive than life imprisonment should be held to a lower standard. Florida has already litigated this issue and come out on the right side of history. The state legislature is not just trying to reintroduce Jim Crow-era sentencing practices, it is making it more likely that innocent people will be placed on death row and killed at the hands of the state. If this bill passes, Florida would be the only state in the country to allow a sentence of death by as few as eight jurors.
“According to Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, Florida has exonerated 30 innocent people from death row since 1973. This is the highest number of death row exonerations in the country. Florida has exonerated one innocent person for every three people the state has executed. Florida’s long list of exonerees includes men like Herman Lindsey, executive director of Witness to Innocence, who was wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death by a nonunanimous jury. Reopening this door will lead to more innocent people being sentenced to death.”