The Fate of Death Row Inmates in Florida

death penalty
Posted at 9:42 PM, Jan 12, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-12 21:42:00-05

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) - The Supreme Court rules Florida's system for sentencing people to death to be unconstitutional.

The ruling came down on Tuesday, when officials decided the system gives too much power to judges and not enough to juries. The 8 to 1 ruling, called the state of florida's sentencing procedure for the death penalty 'flawed'.

This ruling will now directly affect the case of Timothy Lee Hurst, who was convicted of the stabbing murder of his manager at a Popeye's restaurant in Pensacola in 1998. That case will head back to the lower courts.

Nearly 400 inmates are currently on death row in Florida, which serves as one of the highest numbers across the country. Gary & Salllyn Pajcic Professor of Law at Florida State University, Wayne Logan, says it's uncertain what this ruling will mean for other inmates on death row, "there are some questions on whether Hurst's case would apply that could affect many more individuals whose cases became finalized after 2002, when the prior case of Ring v. Arizona came down."

The high courts decision in Florida is based on a previous Arizona ruling that was found not to be retroactive. However, the news has stunned many Florida legislators like Attorney General, Pam Bondi, "all of my attorneys are trying to digest the opinion now, and see whether we need a legislative change, whether it will affect people who have already been sentenced to death… the pending death cases… so we are looking at that now."

Some political leaders say that the Florida Senate and House of Representatives will likely have to spend the 2016 legislative session modernizing the state's death penalty system in order to keep it viable.  Florida currently has 390 inmates on death row, and the most recent execution happened last Thursday.