Florida's Unconstitutional Death Penalty Procedure

Florida's Unconstitutional Death Penalty Procedure

The Supreme Court allowed the death penalty once again in 1976, but Florida's system in this matter is flawed.
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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.

Cover Image Credit: Huffington Post

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It's Time To Thank Your First Roommate

Not the horror story kind of roommate, but the one that was truly awesome.
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Nostalgic feelings have recently caused me to reflect back on my freshman year of college. No other year of my life has been filled with more ups and downs, and highs and lows, than freshman year. Throughout all of the madness, one factor remained constant: my roommate. It is time to thank her for everything. These are only a few of the many reasons to do so, and this goes for roommates everywhere.

You have been through all the college "firsts" together.

If you think about it, your roommate was there through all of your first college experiences. The first day of orientation, wishing you luck on the first days of classes, the first night out, etc. That is something that can never be changed. You will always look back and think, "I remember my first day of college with ____."

You were even each other's first real college friend.

You were even each other's first real college friend.

Months before move-in day, you were already planning out what freshman year would be like. Whether you previously knew each other, met on Facebook, or arranged to meet in person before making any decisions, you made your first real college friend during that process.

SEE ALSO: 18 Signs You're A Little Too Comfortable With Your Best Friends

The transition from high school to college is not easy, but somehow you made it out on the other side.

It is no secret that transitioning from high school to college is difficult. No matter how excited you were to get away from home, reality hit at some point. Although some people are better at adjusting than others, at the times when you were not, your roommate was there to listen. You helped each other out, and made it through together.

Late night talks were never more real.

Remember the first week when we stayed up talking until 2:00 a.m. every night? Late night talks will never be more real than they were freshman year. There was so much to plan for, figure out, and hope for. Your roommate talked, listened, laughed, and cried right there with you until one of you stopped responding because sleep took over.

You saw each other at your absolute lowest.

It was difficult being away from home. It hurt watching relationships end and losing touch with your hometown friends. It was stressful trying to get in the swing of college level classes. Despite all of the above, your roommate saw, listened, and strengthened you.

...but you also saw each other during your highest highs.

After seeing each other during the lows, seeing each other during the highs was such a great feeling. Getting involved on campus, making new friends, and succeeding in classes are only a few of the many ways you have watched each other grow.

There was so much time to bond before the stresses of college would later take over.

Freshman year was not "easy," but looking back on it, it was more manageable than you thought at the time. College only gets busier the more the years go on, which means less free time. Freshman year you went to lunch, dinner, the gym, class, events, and everything else possible together. You had the chance to be each other's go-to before it got tough.

No matter what, you always bounced back to being inseparable.

Phases of not talking or seeing each other because of business and stress would come and go. Even though you physically grew apart, you did not grow apart as friends. When one of you was in a funk, as soon as it was over, you bounced right back. You and your freshman roommate were inseparable.

The "remember that one time, freshman year..." stories never end.

Looking back on freshman year together is one of my favorite times. There are so many stories you have made, which at the time seemed so small, that bring the biggest laughs today. You will always have those stories to share together.

SEE ALSO: 15 Things You Say To Your Roommates Before Going Out

The unspoken rule that no matter how far apart you grow, you are always there for each other.

It is sad to look back and realize everything that has changed since your freshman year days. You started college with a clean slate, and all you really had was each other. Even though you went separate ways, there is an unspoken rule that you are still always there for each other.

Your old dorm room is now filled with two freshmen trying to make it through their first year. They will never know all the memories that you made in that room, and how it used to be your home. You can only hope that they will have the relationship you had together to reflect on in the years to come.


Cover Image Credit: Katie Ward

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Don't Let Your Politics Identify You

As identity politics draws lines in the sand is there a chance that soon we will have more than two main political parties?

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The term identity politics refers to a common group, such as racial, religious, social, cultural, economic, and especially political alliances. This term has been used to identify the injustices of our society and in most cases characterizing their political beliefs. It gained power during the women's movement, the civil rights movement, the LGBTQ movement, and most recently the nationalist movement. As the Democratic candidates for the 2020 presidential election grow, the term identity politics has been a factor in our elections since the 1970s and will cloud our upcoming election even more than in 2016.

Identity politics has become the mainstream of our political discussion, it has caused each voter to decide which group to be part of. It is no longer Democrat, Republican, or Independent, now there is an added description to the party affiliation. The class or social distinction varies, whether it is White American, African American, Hispanic, Asian, male, female, gay, lesbian, wealthy, middle class, poor, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, as the list grows.

In the book, "Identity" by Frances Fukyama, he explains, "In the United States, identity politics has fractured the left into a series of identity groups that are home to its most energetic political activists. It has in many respects lost touch with the one identity group that used to be its largest constituency, the white working class. This has spawned the rise of a populist right that feels its own identity to be under threat, abetted by a president whose personal vanity is tied to the degree of anger and polarization he can stroke." The once silent groups now have a voice in our society and they have become louder and stronger and caused the white working class to feel they are no longer recognized as the primary group.

For example, the citizens in middle American, commonly known as the rust belt, became more and more disenfranchised from the government in Washington DC. These middle to upper class, blue-collar workers have struggled for the past several decades to keep their jobs, their homes, their health insurance, and keep their loved ones from becoming victims of the ever-growing opioid crisis.

They were firmly rooted and stubborn. Not willing to go back to school or change their career paths. The blue-collar man was left behind and becoming angrier as the banks foreclosed and their towns emptied of all other enterprises. They did not want to hear that it was time to move on, leave the confines of your family heritage or adapt to the ever-changing society and economic environment.

Along comes a "millionaire" candidate that puts on a circus atmosphere with his catchy phrases and promises that have no clear plan. He pointed his finger at minorities and blamed them for all White American's problems. He gave them an excuse. He convinced them he was the only one who was going to give them their piece of the American pie.

They took him at his word because he wasn't from the nation's capital, a politician that told them to move on. His macho image and never apologize swagger convinced most of the men and women in middle America that he was going to "drain the swamp" in Washington DC as the new sheriff akin to "Wyatt Earp." He would bring back their jobs and prosperity would once again be in their view. His ability to use fear and hate as a platform took the nationalist party into the mainstream of politics.

As the nationalist party takes on a life of its own, it becomes clear that a candidate that focuses entirely on the cultural left issues will be challenged to prove their worth. After the 2016 election, the candidates accepted the fact that they overreached when it came to their focus on identity politics and renouncing a more universal appeal.

In an article from The Nation, Walter Benn Michaels writes, "It's not racism that creates the difference between classes; it's capitalism. And it's not anti-racism that can combat the difference; it's socialism. We're frequently told that black poverty is worse than white poverty—more isolating, more concentrated—and maybe that's true. But why, politically, should it matter? You don't build the left by figuring out which victim has been most victimized; you build it by organizing all the victims. When it comes to the value of universal health care, for example, we don't need to worry for a second about whether the black descendants of slaves are worse off than the white descendants of coal miners. The goal is not to make sure that black people are no sicker than white people; it's to make everybody healthy. That's why they call it universal."

Everyone wants to be defined, but there is an overreach when it comes to the labels. As a teenager having a label put on us was degrading and at times emotional, yet as adults, it seems we can't help but put a label on ourselves and others especially when it comes to our politics. As identity politics draws lines in the sand is there a chance that soon we will have more than two main political parties? Will this be a change that is needed to become a more cohesive America?

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