Unanimous Decisions in Death Penalty Cases

The state Supreme Court wants the Legislature to require that jury recommendations be unanimous, and without that change, death sentences could be more vulnerable to appeal.

The Florida Supreme Court is concerned about how juries make life or death recommendations. The court has asked the Legislature to require a unanimous vote for death, just as it does for guilt or innocence.

The case of Anthony Mungin got to the court because his jury recommended death by a 7 to 5 vote. Lawyer Todd Scher thinks convincing 12 people would have more safeguards.

Todd Scher was asked, “So, your client may die on a very close vote?”

He says, “That’s correct, and I think that’s the problem. I think certainly under the recent decisions from the United States Supreme Court that the Florida death penalty scheme, it does violate the Sixth Amendment right to trial.”

Through dozens of rulings, the court has already sent a message to judges telling them it won’t accept a death sentence when the jury recommended life. The question now is whether the court is saying the same thing when the jury is less than unanimous.

The attorney general has weighed in to the fight by writing the Legislature, saying he likes the law just the way it is.

Spokesperson Joanne Carrin says some notable murderers would still be alive if the law were different.

Joanne says, “Ted Bundy would still be alive in prison. Ailene Wuornos would be still in prison. Those jury recommendations were 10-2.”

But without a change, many think those on death row will stay there and that the death penalty itself could be thrown out the window.

Florida is currently the only state in the country that does not require a unanimous jury recommendation to impose a death sentence.


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