Florida's death penalty process ruled unconstitutional

4:37 PM, Jun 23, 2011   |    comments
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A lethal injection execution chamber

Tallahassee, Florida - Pressure is building on state lawmakers to take a new look at Florida's death penalty process following a federal judge's ruling that says the system is unconstitutional.

Judge Jose Martinez ruled the state's death sentencing is flawed because it does not require juries to explain why they're recommending the death penalty.

He believes juries should have the power to decide if there are aggravating factors that justify a death sentence. Currently judges have that authority in Florida.

The Florida Catholic Conference praises the ruling.

Spokeswoman Sheila Hopkins says state lawmakers should focus on the death sentencing system, just as the American Bar Association recommended five years ago.

"There's just all kinds of faults within our system and this is certainly going to, we hope, open it up to some consideration by the legislature to change our laws."

The Florida Attorney General's Office is appealing the decision. A spokeswoman says the ruling has no immediate impact on death sentencing in Florida pending the outcome of appeals.

Dave Heller

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