Florida's idiosyncratic capital sentencing system appears to be in peril at the Supreme Court, with several justices questioning whether it gives enough authority to jurors, the New York Times reports. Timothy Hurst was convicted of the 1998 murder of a co-worker at a Popeyes restaurant. He was sentenced to death, but after the Florida Supreme Court ordered him resentenced, a second jury in 2012 recommended a death sentence by a 7-to-5 vote. The judge independently considered the evidence and concluded that he should be executed. His attorney, Seth Waxman, listed what he said were several constitutional problems with Florida's procedure.
The jury was not required to render a unanimous verdict, to specify which factors warranted death or even to say whether the jurors in the majority agreed on which factors they had relied on, he said. “There is no other state that permits anyone to be sentenced to death other than by a unanimous determination by the jury,” he said. “And the State of Florida requires unanimity for shoplifting, just not for death.” Only two states — Louisiana and Oregon — allow nonunanimous verdicts in most criminal cases, and even then at least 10 of the 12 jurors have to agree. The two states require unanimous verdicts in capital cases. In a second argument yesterday, on whether a 2012 ruling barring mandatory life sentences for juvenile offenders can be applied retroactively, justices focused on a jurisdictional issue that may derail a ruling in the case.