Friday, March 4, 2016

Outline of Florida's new Death Penalty Law

Initial Analysis of Florida’s New Death Penalty Law
The Florida legislature has now passed a new death penalty law and sent it to Governor Scott. The Governor is expected to promptly sign the bill. Here are a few of the new features:
--The law is to take effect upon signing.
--The prosecutor must give notice of intent to seek death within 45 days of arraignment.
--This notice must list the aggravating factors “the state intends to prove and has reason to believe it can prove beyond a reasonable doubt.”
--“The court may allow the prosecutor to amend the notice upon a showing of good cause.”
--At the penalty phase, the jury must unanimously determine whether the state has proven the existence of at least one aggravating factor.
--The verdict must identify each aggravating factor found to exist.
--If the jury does not unanimously find any aggravating factor, “the defendant is ineligible for a sentence of death.”
--If at least one factor is unanimously found by the jury, the defendant is death eligible.
--If death eligible, the jury makes a recommendation to the court as to whether the defendant is sentenced to life imprisonment without possibility of parole, or death.
--The jury’s recommendation is based on:
--whether sufficient aggravating factors exist;
--whether the aggravating factors out weight the mitigating circumstances.
--if at least ten jurors determine the defendant should be sentenced to death, the jury’s recommendation shall be death.
--if fewer than ten jurors determine the defendant should be sentenced to death, the jury’s recommendation shall be life imprisonment without possibility of parole.
--The trial judge makes the final decision.
--The trial judge may not override a life recommendation and sentence the defendant to death.
-- The trial judge may override a death recommendation and sentence the defendant to life.
--If the trial judge sentences the defendant to death, the judge may only consider those aggravating factors unanimously found by the jury.
--The new statute gives explicit directions to the trial judge as to what must be contained in the written sentencing order if the Defendant is sentenced to death.
--“If the court does not issue its order requiring the death sentence within 30 days after the rendition of the judgment and sentence, the court shall impose a sentence of life imprisonment.”
Not in the statute but an obvious conclusion is that the Florida stand jury instructions for the penalty phase will have to be substantially rewritten. Additionally, new interrogatory verdict forms will need to be drafted.

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