New Florida Law Requires Unanimous Jury to Impose Death Sentence


Florida Governor Rick Scott on Monday night signed the new law, which raises from 10 to 12 the number of juror votes required to sentence someone to death.

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.  While it removed the judge’s ability to override a jury’s sentencing recommendation, it still did not require a unanimous jury verdict in order to impose a death sentence.  In October, the Florida Supreme Court found this new law unconstitutional under Hurst because of the lack of a unanimity requirement.

The new bill, SB 280, passed overwhelmingly last week. It is the first major law passed and signed in the 2017 legislative session. 

Florida now joins the majority of states that require unanimous juries.

Alabama has the same death penalty statute as that struck down by the Supreme Court in Hurst.  Despite this, the Alabama Supreme Court ruled last fall that the state’s death penalty statute is constitutional. Alabama’s resistance to upholding the Constitution makes it the only state in which a judge can override a jury’s life verdict and impose a death sentence. Last month, the Alabama Senate passed a bill that would end judicial override. The bill is currently being considered by the Alabama House of Representatives.

Florida now joins the majority of states that require unanimous juries to impose death sentences.