The problem with Florida’s death penalty began earlier this year when the Florida legislature rewrote the death penalty law in light of the Supreme Court ruling that its existing law was unconstitutional.  The rewrite was flawed and resulted in a challenge that resulted in today’s rulings that Florida’s death penalty is (still) unconstitutional.

The Miami Herald reported at the time:

Lawmakers have approved a crucial rewrite of Florida’s death penalty sentencing law, hoping it passes muster after the current version was recently declared unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The bill, passed overwhelmingly by the state Senate Thursday, now heads to Gov. Rick Scott for his signature.

. . . .  Florida’s new law requires juries to unanimously vote for every reason, known as aggravating factors, to warrant a death sentence. A trial judge must sign a written order confirming those findings.

Prosecutors also must notify defendants before trial that they will seek the death penalty and list the aggravating factors the state intends to prove.

The bill also requires at least 10 of 12 jurors in a capital case to agree on a death sentence, an issue not specifically addressed by the U.S. Supreme Court in its decision in Hurst v. Florida.

Current Florida law allows juries to recommend death on a simply majority vote. The new law will put Florida in line with one other death-penalty state, Alabama. Most states require jury recommendations of a death sentence to be unanimous.

Florida’s Supreme Court said the re-write of Florida’s death penalty provisions are also unconstitutional.

The Orlando Sentinel reports:

In a long-awaited decision, the Florida Supreme Court today ruled that the Florida Legislature fumbled a re-write of the state’s death penalty statute earlier this year, meaning that Florida currently has no death penalty.

The court also ruled that Timothy Lee Hurst, the man whose death penalty prompted the U.S. Supreme Court earlier this year to declare Florida’s death penalty unconstitutional, must be given a new sentencing hearing.

The court was unequivocal on one overarching point: For Hurst or any defendant to be given the death penalty, all 12 jurors must recommend it.

Those two rulings, released at the same time this morning, were a blow not just to the Florida Legislature but also to Attorney General Pam Bondi, who had argued that the error identified by the U.S. Supreme Court was harmless.

. . . . Both of today’s ruling were a consequence of one handed down on Jan. 12 by the U.S. Supreme Court. It ruled that Florida’s death penalty was unconstitutional because it required a judge – not a jury – to decide whether a defendant should be put to death.

The case involved Timothy Lee Hurst, a Pensacola man convicted of murdering his boss at a Popeyes Fried Chicken restaurant in Pensacola in 1998 with a box cutter then putting her body in a freezer.

The state had argued that the error was harmless, but in that January ruling, Justice Sonya Sotomayor wrote that the court disagreed but left it to the Florida Supreme Court to hash out who, if anyone, was harmed.

You can read the opinions on Timothy Lee Hurst v. State of Florida and Larry Darnell Perry v. State of Florida here and here.

[Featured Image: Timonthy Lee Hurst via Murderpedia]