The Florida Supreme Court cemented death sentences for nearly 200 prisoners Thursday, ruling they are not eligible for lower sentences or re-hearings under a revamped death penalty law, reports the Miami Herald. In a 6-1 ruling, the justices said death sentences finalized before a June 2002 U.S. Supreme Court decision would remain in effect, paving the way for executions to begin again in Florida after an 11-month hiatus. However, the ruling left open the possibility that more than half of Florida’s Death Row inmates could be re-sentenced based on rulings this year that threw out the state’s death penalty rules.
The court also lifted a stay on the execution of Mark James Asay, originally scheduled for March 17. Asay was convicted in 1988 of killing two men in Jacksonville. Thursday’s ruling caps a tumultuous year for Florida’s death penalty. The only execution in 2016 was that of Oscar Ray Bolin Jr. on Jan. 7. Five days later, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the state’s death penalty unconstitutional in Hurst vs. Florida, prompting the Legislature to rewrite sentencing laws. In October, the Florida Supreme Court decided that the Hurst ruling required unanimous votes by juries to make a death sentence. Current law requires a supermajority vote by 10 of the 12 members of a jury. Figuring out how to apply those rulings to the 384 prisoners on Death Row has been a “thorny issue,” the justices wrote.