On January 12th, the United States Supreme court found Florida and Alabama’s capital sentencing procedures to be unconstitutional as they do not require the jury to make the critical findings necessary to hand out a death sentence.
Florida and Alabama allow a jury’s recommendation of a life sentence to be overruled by an elected judge. This means that a judge can decide to impose the death penalty against a jury’s recommendation. In Florida, no judge has overruled a jury’s recommendation of a life sentence in 15 years. Alabama on the other hand, has had judges override juries’ recommendations of life sentences 101 times since 1976, including 26 times since the year 2000.
The Supreme Court found the capital sentencing design of Florida and Alabama to violate the Sixth Amendment which states that any fact that makes a person eligible for death must be determined by a jury, not a judge.
Read more about the ruling here.
Read the Supreme Court ruling here.