TALLAHASSEE, FL – On Thursday, the Senate voted to pass Senate Bill 450 (SB 450). This bill reintroduces unconstitutional non-unanimous jury recommendations for the death penalty. Just eight out of twelve jurors will now have the power to recommend a death sentence. These bills are contrary to the 2016 Florida Supreme Court ruling requiring unanimity in capital cases. Florida will now have the lowest threshold for death sentences 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 to the vote with the following:
“Non-unanimous jury recommendations for the death penalty is an abhorrent practice. It is also unconstitutional. The Florida Supreme Court made that clear in 2016. And yet, certain legislators would opt to give eight out of twelve jurors the power to recommend a death sentence. No other state in the country imposes death based on so few jurors.
“It is shameful that the leaders in this legislature prioritized and fast-tracked this bill despite widespread opposition from Floridians of all walks of life. This legislature talks a lot about the ‘sanctity of life,’ but is quick to pass legislation taking away the lives of others. Just to be clear: the bill allows a person to be sentenced to death, even though one-third of the jurors hearing all the evidence did not think that sentence was warranted.This Jim Crow-era sentencing practice was abolished for a reason. The state legislature isn’t just weakening the public’s faith in the criminal legal system; by imposing the lowest threshold in the country for death sentences, the state legislature is guaranteeing that even more innocent people will be sentenced to death for crimes they did not commit.
“There is nothing just about this grave injustice.”