Death Penalty Verdicts in Florida Must Be UnanimousJuly 21, 2017

This week marked the 100th death sentence reversed under the Florida Supreme Court's ruling that the death penalty cannot be imposed unless there is a unanimous jury verdict for death. As reported by the Death Penalty Information Center, Florida courts have been vigilant to ensure that no one is executed unless all 12 jurors voted for the death penalty.

Last year, the United States Supreme Court in Hurst v. Florida struck down Florida's capital sentencing statute as unconstitutional. In response to Hurst, Florida’s legislature rewrote the state’s death penalty statute, removing the judge’s ability to override a jury’s sentencing recommendation, but still permitting a death sentence without a unanimous jury verdict for death.

In October, the Florida Supreme Court found this new law unconstitutional under Hurst because of the lack of a unanimity requirement. Florida lawmakers responded by overwhelmingly passing a new bill requiring that all 12 jurors vote for death in order to impose a death sentence, which Governor Rick Scott signed into law in March.

Alabama's original capital sentencing statute was patterned after the Florida statute that was struck down by the Supreme Court in Hurst. Like the first legislative response to Hurst in Florida, Alabama's legislature eliminated judge override earlier this year, but Alabama's statute still permits a death sentence to be imposed without a unanimous jury verdict for death, which raises questions about whether the statute is constitutional.