U.S Supreme Court case could result in dozens of Northeast Florida convicts coming off of Death Row

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear a case next year that could drastically change how the death penalty is handed down in Florida.  The case could also result in more than 60 people from Northeast Florida on Death Row having their sentence reevaluated, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. The decision will focus on whether or not a jury recommendation for the death penalty must be unanimous. Florida is one of only three states with the death penalty that does not require the jury to unanimously recommend death, the newspaper reported.  In Florida, the recommendation only needs to be a majority of the 12 jurors and then the judge makes the final decision. Rarely, though, does a judge ever decide to go against the recommendation of the jury.  The case was brought by a man in the Panhandle who is on Death Row after the jury recommended the death penalty by a 7-5 vote. Of the 75 people on Death Row from Northeast Florida, the newspaper reported, 62 were put there by a decision in a Jacksonville Murder Case that was not unanimous. The argument for keeping the majority vote is that the jury has to unanimously agree the person is guilty to even get to the penalty phase. So, for example, there cannot be an 11-1 vote to find someone guilty of murder – or of any other charge, from trespassing to drug trafficking to armed robbery. The jury’s decision must be unanimous.  If a jury cannot come to an agreement on a verdict, that is what’s known as a “hung jury,” and the judge must declare a mistrial. From there, the prosecution can decide whether it wants to take the case to trial again, or go back to the negotiating table with the defense to see if a plea deal can be arranged. The same is true if the jury is leaning toward a not guilty verdict. Just because it might be 10-2 in favor of not guilty during plea deliberations does not mean the person will be found not guilty. The jury must come to unanimous agreement in either direction.  The argument to make the death penalty decision unanimous is that the decision for the state to take someone’s life is so critical that if there’s any doubt at all in the minds of the jury – the appropriate sentence is life in prison. The pending Supreme Court decision is an important one and could have a large impact on people sentenced to death in Jacksonville Murder Cases.  Criminal law is filled with technicalities and various procedures that can dramatically affect the outcome in a Jacksonville Felony Case. Our Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney knows the ins and outs of the law and will fully investigate your case so you or your loved one can make an informed decision going forward.
If you or a loved one needs a criminal defense attorney in Jacksonville or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm at (904) 365-5200 for a FREE CONSULTATION. Our Duval County Violent Crimes Attorney, Victoria “Tori” Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

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