WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court says Florida’s 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.
The justices on Tuesday ruled 8-1 that the state’s sentencing procedure is flawed because juries play only an advisory role in recommending death while the judge can reach a different decision.
The court ordered a new sentencing hearing for Timothy Lee Hurst, who was convicted of the 1998 murder of his manager at a Popeye’s restaurant in Pensacola. A jury divided 7-5 in favor of death, but a judge imposed the sentence.
Florida’s solicitor general argued that the system was acceptable because a jury first decides if the defendant is eligible for the death penalty.