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Function of Juries & Jury Nullification | 19 Apr 2014

-Tallahassee Paper Supports Unanimous Jury Verdicts for Death Sentences

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Jury BoxWhile Florida requires a unanimous vote of jurors to convict a defendant of a death-eligible, capital offense, (a) the jurors’ role in determining whether the defendant is put to death or sentenced to life without parole is only ADVISORY and can be overruled by a single judge, and (b) that recommendation is made based on a simple majority vote. This is the laxest standard in the United States for putting a person to death. It is not surprising then that Florida leads the nation in death sentences and reversal of death sentences, and ranks second in actual executions.

One might wonder how just it is to put a person to death when the state can’t get just 12 individuals out of MILLIONS to agree it should be done, especially when those 12 are pre-screened to weed out everyone who opposes the death penalty, thereby forming a jury made up only of those predisposed to be willing to impose a death sentence. This opinion piece from the Tallahassee Democrat argues for a unanimous standard for a jury to recommend death, make the process for reaching such a serious decision more robust and consistent with that to convict in the first place.

Our Opinion: Death penalty

Though the judge in a case can override the jury’s recommendation, that is rare. So, what the jury decides matters, and it is inconsistent that a decision on guilt should require unanimity — while the decision to take the life of the accused needs only a simple majority.

Here’s food for thought: Since 2006, the state Supreme Court has not overturned any sentence in which the jury recommended death by a 12-0 vote.

Surely, with a requirement of unanimity, jurors would have an extra incentive to engage in a thorough discussion before making a recommendation. That extra time would ensure extra fairness.

Click through for the entire article.

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