Florida lawmaker seeks to make it easier for juries to recommend death sentences

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Florida lawmakers are looking to make it easier to sentence criminals to death.

It’s the aim of new legislation filed in the State Capitol.

In Florida to be convicted of a crime, you must have a unanimous jury verdict.

There have been several iterations of what it takes to sentence someone to death over the years including a simple majority of jurors, 10 of 12 jurors and the current unanimous recommendation requirement.


But after a single holdout juror resulted in Parkland shooter Nicholas Cruz avoiding the death penalty some Florida lawmakers want to lower the standard.

“Evil scumbags like Nicholas Cruz should not get away with a life sentence,” said State Senator Blaise Ingoglia (R-Spring Hill).

Ingoglia is sponsoring a bill that would require only 8 of 12, or a supermajority, of the jury to recommend death.

“So, under this bill, Nicholas Cruz would be sentenced to death,” said Ingoglia.

For years Florida lawmakers were unable to tinker with the unanimous jury requirement after the Florida Supreme Court held all aspects of a death sentence must be unanimous.

But that was reversed in 2020.

Human Rights Attorney Mark Schlakman points out at 30, Florida has the highest number of death row exonerations of any state.

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“Florida has long been, had long been, an outlier,” said Schlakman.

Schlakman has worked on the death penalty issue for years and said research shows unanimous jury recommendations lower the likelihood of wrongful convictions.

“A unanimity requirement at the penalty phase, just like it is at trial, is the appropriate means to address these issues,” said Schlakman.

Still, Ingoglia argued one voice shouldn’t be the reason a victim’s family fails to get the justice they’re owed.

“Do you want a protest juror, one or two jurors, to stop the death penalty from going into effect? I would say no,” said Ingoglia.

Since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976, Florida has put to death 99 inmates.

Governor Rick Scott signed off on the most death warrants at 28.

Governor Ron DeSantis has signed just three, the latest of which, convicted murderer Donald David Dillbeck, is scheduled to be executed on February 23.

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