In 1972, the Supreme Court of the United States struck down the death penalty nationwide, declaring it unconstitutional. Since it was reinstated in 1976, Florida became the first state in 1979 to perform an involuntary execution. Since then, 93 executions have been performed.
Recently, Florida has had more backlash on their "unconstitutional" death penalty system. According to Yahoo! News, "Florida's unique system for sentencing people to death is unconstitutional because it gives too much power to judges, and not enough to juries, to decide capital sentences."
Although the Supreme Court made the death penalty legal in all states in 1972, on Jan. 12 the court declared Florida's system unconstitutional, and in the 8-1 ruling, the state's sentencing procedure is "flawed because juries only play an advisory role."
Remember in high school when you had to memorize the amendments of the Constitution? How about the Sixth Amendment, which says you have a right to a fair trial with a jury? A jury makes decisions that are fair and unbiased. Apparently in Florida, the jury doesn't have full control on the death penalty decisions, where the judge can reach a different decision, no matter the jury's ruling. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor said, "The Sixth Amendment requires a jury, not a judge, to find each fact necessary to impose a sentence of death."
This declaration that it is unconstitutional could "trigger new sentencing" for some of the 390 inmates that are on Florida's death row. 390. That's a number only second to California, which had 746 as of July 1, 2015. Although it is unknown whose sentences could be brought back to the courts, it has been reported that this will only apply to the cases whose initial appeals are "not yet exhausted."
Argument from Florida's solicitor general arose that said the system is, in fact, acceptable because the jury first decides if the defendant is even eligible for the death penalty. There was immediate response from Sotomayor, saying that "mere recommendation (from the jury) is not enough." From this decision, the Supreme Court is now overruling all previous decisions that were upheld by the state's unconstitutional process.
According to the Sun Sentinel, the defense attorneys of the 390 inmates on death row have already looked into filing petitions for new sentencing. Two men are still scheduled to be executed in the next two months, though. Currently, there are five women on death row.
While on the topic death row, let's look at the executions since the start of 2016. On Jan. 7, Florida carried out its "first execution of the new year" that killed Oscar Ray Bolin - who was convicted of abducting and killing a 26-year-old woman in 1986 - by lethal injection at the Florida State Prison. Only 30 years later. Two more executions are scheduled for the next few months: Michael Lambrix on Feb. 11 and Mark Asay on March 17. They have both been on death row for about 30 years as well.
The death penalty has been reinstated for 40 years, and there have been thousands of executions since. The outcome of the Supreme Court's decision regarding Florida's death penalty procedures has yet to be reported, but it will probably include giving more power to juries when deciding whether a defendant should, in fact, be sentenced to death.