Tuesday, January 12, 2016

SCOTUS: Florida Death Penalty Decision System Is Unconstitutional

Here is the SCOTUSblog page on Hurst v. Florida. Linked from there is Lyle Denniston's opinion analysis. Here is an excerpt:
Striking down the last state law that denies the jury in a murder case the final choice on a death sentence, the Supreme Court on Tuesday nullified Florida’s capital-sentencing regime because it gives the final decision to the trial judge. By a vote of eight to one in Hurst v. Florida, the Court also overruled two of its prior decisions that had upheld Florida’s law.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s fairly brief majority opinion relied primarily upon a 2002 decision, Ring v. Arizona, which the Court interpreted to have made clear that if there is ever to be a death sentence in a murder case tried by a jury, the jurors must hold the final decision, not subject to being second-guessed by the judge.

The ruling, however, did not immediately spare the life of Timothy Lee Hurst of Pensacola for murdering a co-worker at a fast-food restaurant more than seventeen years ago. ...
The case involved a worker at Popeye's who murdered his manager, so I believe everyone has to agree this is a chicken decision. But the reasoning makes some sense; please read the article. The opinion for the Court was written by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who wrote
We hold this sentencing scheme unconstitutional. The Sixth Amendment requires a jury, not a judge, to find each fact necessary to impose a sentence of death. A jury’s mere recommendation is not enough.

The entire minority in the 8-1 decision was Justice Samuel Alito, who understandably has difficulty with the Sixth Amendment, which reads
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.
Note that the trial is decided by "... an impartial jury..." not by the whims of a judge. This may be scant comfort to the accused in this case, if SCOTUS decides to send the case back to Florida.

When will the USA join the large majority of nations in the world in abolishing the death penalty? Hint: from the pics I saw on the news last night, the Northeast is on its way to freezing over, and Hell can't be far behind...

No comments:

Post a Comment


• Click here to view existing comments.
• Or enter your new rhyme or reason
in the new comment box here.
• Or click the first Reply link below an existing
comment or reply and type in the
new reply box provided.
• Scrolling manually up and down the page
is also OK.

Static Pages (About, Quotes, etc.)

No Police Like H•lmes