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Is It Time for Florida's Death Penalty to Go?

With the U.S. Supreme Court announcing decisions in several high-profile cases over the past two weeks (most notably ruling that same-sex marriage must be performed and recognized throughout the United States and refusing to strike down a key provision of Obamacare), some of the Court’s other, seemingly-less-important decisions may have escaped the attention of some. This included a decision challenging the use of the drug midazolam in lethal injection executions.

Four states – including Florida – use midazolam to render a prisoner unconscious before the lethal drugs are injected. However, the plaintiffs (all death row inmates in states that use midazolam) argued that midazolam was unreliable and may not render the prisoner unconscious, resulting in agonizing deaths. Nevertheless, the Supreme Court ruled that the use of midazolam does not constitute “cruel and unusual punishment” and therefore does not violate the Eighth Amendment. States like Florida that had halted executions pending the Supreme Court’s decision announced plans to resume executions swiftly.

Is There Another Challenge to Florida’s Death Penalty Law Available?

Those seeking the abolition of the death penalty in Florida are focusing on a new argument. Under Florida law, after a person has been found guilty of a capital crime the jury is required to render an advisory opinion to the judge regarding whether the defendant’s sentence should be death or life imprisonment. This opinion is given to the judge after the jury considers any aggravating factors and mitigating factors that may be present.

Up to this stage, Florida’s death penalty statute is similar to other states’ death penalty statutes. Obviously, a jury in any state cannot return 12 different recommendations as to the defendant’s sentence. But whereas some states require the jury to agree unanimously or by a supermajority as to whether to recommend a life sentence or the death penalty, Florida requires only a bare majority of jurors to be in favor of imposing the death penalty in order to recommend this sentence to the judge. Not only this, but the jurors who are in favor of imposing the death penalty do not even need to agree as to what aggravating factor or factors exist to support their decision.

Capital Crimes in Florida Require Experienced Defense Counsel

Until Florida and/or the United States finds that capital punishment is unconstitutional, Florida defendants charged with capital offenses will need the assistance experienced defense counsel. Although mitigating evidence or exculpatory evidence is important in any case, during a capital crime case the successful and persuasive presentation of this evidence can literally mean the difference between life and death.

Florida criminal defense attorney Jeffrey S. Weiner is experienced in defending individuals charged with capital crimes such as murder. He will conduct a thorough investigation into your case and ensure any favorable evidence and exculpatory evidence are persuasively presented in court with zeal. Contact the office of Jeffrey S. Weiner at (305) 670-9919 for experienced and knowledgeable legal assistance if you have been charged in Florida with a state or federal crime.

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