SCOTUS Rules Florida 'Sentencing Scheme' Unconstitutional

Sep 2012
14,581
18,894
SoCal
#1
Supreme Court overrules Florida death penalty sentencing scheme

In an 8-1 decision, the United States Supreme Court has ruled against Florida’s capital punishment scheme, which says that judges have the power to determine facts in death penalty cases.

Writing for the majority, Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor said on Tuesday in was Hurst v. Florida that “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.”

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“The Sixth Amendment protects a defendant’s right to an impartial jury. This right required Florida to base Timothy Hurst’s death sentence on a jury’s verdict, not a judge’s fact finding. Florida’s sentencing scheme, which required the judge alone to find the existence of an aggravating circumstance, is therefore unconstitutional,” she concluded.
 

webrockk

Former Staff
Nov 2009
30,474
11,090
on the river
#2
VI Amendment: 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.
“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.”


They just make it up as they go along.
 

Amelia

Former Staff
Jun 2014
45,963
27,864
Wisconsin
#4
Did the "by an impartial jury" part trip you up?


Judges determine sentencing all the time, once the jury has finished determining guilt. So I also don't immediately see how a reading of the 6th Amendment requires that the jury be the one to sentence someone to death.



But the overwheming majority of the learned justices disagreed with me and I don't have feelings about this law or decision beyond that.

I look forward to the day when we end the death penalty entirely.
 

webrockk

Former Staff
Nov 2009
30,474
11,090
on the river
#6
Did the "by an impartial jury" part trip you up?
Do we seek out "partial" judges for appointment? I don't see any language that even hints where 6A recognizes a defendant's rights to a jury's sentencing recommendations. It's my understanding sentencing statutes are established by the respective states' lawmakers, and these statutes are executed at the discretion of the judges who reside in those states.
 
Last edited:
Sep 2014
5,058
1,572
South FL
#7
Judges determine sentencing all the time, once the jury has finished determining guilt. So I also don't immediately see how a reading of the 6th Amendment requires that the jury be the one to sentence someone to death.



But the overwheming majority of the learned justices disagreed with me and I don't have feelings about this law or decision beyond that.

I look forward to the day when we end the death penalty entirely.
I'll peruse this case when I get a free moment. A typical balancing test in sentencing is when a judge weighs aggravating and mitigating circumstances for purposes of grading the offense. My feeling is that if the judge is finding the existence of an aggravating factor as a 'fact' where that fact hasn't been determined by the jury, you might have an issue.
 

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