FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Mark Elliott
Director, Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty
(727) 215-9646, [email protected]
Florida Death Sentencing Unconstitutional
Florida executions continue in record numbers
Tampa, FL, January 12, 2016 — The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled Florida’s death sentencing scheme to be unconstitutional. This came in an 8-1 decision in Hurst v Florida. “It is no surprise that the High Court found Florida’s hit-or-miss death sentencing scheme unconstitutional,” said Mark Elliott, Director of Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (FADP).
Since executions re-started in the 1970’s, 26 people have been exonerated and released from Florida’s Death Row. At the same time 92 people have been executed. “That’s more than one exoneration for every four Florida executions,” said Elliott, “This hugely-expensive, mistake-ridden state government program has failed the people of our state.”
“Florida is also one of only two states that allows only a simple majority vote of the jury to recommend a sentence of death,” said FADP’s Elliott. “It’s no wonder that Florida is a national leader in new sentences of death.”
Gainesville capital postconviction attorney Sonya Rudenstine, who co-authored an amicus brief in the Supreme Court for several former Florida trial judges who argued on behalf of Mr. Hurst, believes that “the Court’s ruling today is fundamentally significant. It does not simply reaffirm the central tenet enunciated in 2000 by Justice Scalia in Apprendi v. New Jersey — that juries, not judges, must make the findings of fact required to increase a defendant’s sentence – but also explicitly overrules long-standing Supreme Court and Florida precedent that capital sentencing schemes are somehow exempt from this requirement.”
Meanwhile executions continue at a record pace. “We call for a halt on Florida executions,” said Elliott. “No one knows how many more innocent people remain on Death Row or, God forbid, have already been executed.”
“You can free an innocent man from prison, but you can never, never, free an innocent man from the grave,” said Juan Melendez, who spent more than 17 years on Florida’s Death Row before being exonerated and released.
On the decline in most parts of the Western world, the death penalty has become a drain on Florida’s justice system since its reinstatement in 1979. The death penalty is six times as costly to the state as life imprisonment. The United States consistently ranks in the top five nations for most executions, along with China, Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia.
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Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (FADP) is a coalition of individuals and organizations united to abolish the death penalty in Florida. fadp.org.
Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, FADP
P.O. Box 82943
Tampa, FL 33682
FADP is a coalition of individuals and organizations united to abolish the Death Penalty in Florida