On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the process used to condemn a Florida death row inmate was unconstitutional because a judge rather than a jury is currently the final arbiter of fact in sentencing. The ruling has opened up the door to further challenges in death penalty cases in Florida and elsewhere.
In response to the ruling, State Attorney candidate for Florida’s Fourth Judicial Circuit Court, Wesley White said on Tuesday:
There are a lot of sociopaths breathing a sign of relief today, and probably an equal number laughing at a system which scrupulously affords them constitutional rights.
Wesley White is running against Angela Curry who is overseeing the Lonzie Barton case in Duval County. Many feel the suspected killer, Ruben Ebron should get the death penalty but with the new ruling that is off the table. There is seemingly a plea deal in the works to give him a reduced sentence of aggravated manslaughter because he disclosed the whereabouts of the missing toddler. Such a weak sentence might spell trouble for Curry who is up for reelection this year.
The 8-1 ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court came from a challenge filed by death row inmate Timothy Lee Hurst. Hurst was convicted of murdering co-worker Cynthia Harrison. Harrison was bound, gagged, and stabbed more than 60 times in 1998.
A jury recommended the death penalty for Hurst, but it was the judge who held a separate hearing and determined it should be imposed as reported by CNN.
The Supreme Court ruling said:
We hold this sentencing scheme unconstitutional. The Sixth Amendment requires a jury, not a judge, to find each fact necessary to impose a sentence of death. A jury’s recommendation is not enough.
That ruling could open the door to other sentencing challenges of Florida’s 385 men and five women now on death row.
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi said her office is reviewing the ruling.
Whereas Florida Representative Matt Gaetz predicted Florida legislators would act swiftly to get the death penalty “right back on track.” Gaetz is an attorney who has dealt with capital punishment during his legislative career.