The Supreme Court Strikes Down Florida’s Blatantly Unconstitutional Capital Scheme

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Sturm College of Law


Supreme Court, Florida, Capital punishment, Death penalty


The Supreme Court decided Hurst v. Florida holding the Florida death penalty scheme unconstitutional under the Sixth Amendment. This should come as no surprise. As I wrote in this space earlier this year, the Florida statute is spectacularly, flamboyantly unconstitutional. It permits a judge to disregard a jury’s findings with regard to aggravation and mitigation and to substitute her own fact-finding regarding the defendant’s eligibility for death. At least since the Supreme Court decided Ring v. Arizona in 2002, determining that any fact which makes the defendant eligible for death must be found by a jury and beyond a reasonable doubt, it has been obvious to anyone who thinks carefully about these issues that the Florida statute could not survive constitutional scrutiny. (Justice Alito, who filed the sole dissent in Hurst, essentially argued that Ring had been wrongly decided, that in any event it should not be extended, and that any violation of Ring was harmless; he did not attempt to argue that the Florida scheme complied with Ring.)

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