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Florida Supreme Court Verdict Again Throws State Capital Punishment Sentencing Laws Into Question

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Richard P. Franklin was sentenced to death by a 9-3 vote for a murder he committed in 2012. On Wednesday the Florida Supreme Court sent his case back for resentencing, declaring that a non-unanimous jury recommendation was unconstitutional. Though the implications for Franklin's case are clear, what that means for the over three hundred other individuals on Florida's Death Row is much less certain.

Franklin, who currently resides in the Florida State Prison in Raiford, has been incarcerated since September 1995, serving a life sentences for first-degree murder and armed robbery, plus another thirty years for aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, among other crimes. He was convicted of another count of first-degree murder for the slaying of corrections officer Ruben Thomas in March, 2012. The sentencing jury voted for the death penalty, but the recommendation wasn't unanimous, as three jurors voted against capital punishment.

The capital punishment sentencing requirements have been a contentious issue between the state and federal judiciary and Florida's legislature this year. In January the United States Supreme Court ruled that Florida's sentencing requirements did not meet Constitutional standards as it left the decision in the hands of a judge and not a jury. The Florida Legislature re-drafted the statute in question, making the decision the purview of a jury but stating that a minimum of ten votes on a twelve-member jury was sufficient to sentence a convicted defendant to death. However, in October the Florida Supreme Court found in Hurst v. State that no less than a unanimous jury was necessary for a trial judge to impose the death sentence, sending that case back to a jury for re-sentencing.

Although the wording of the decision did not make clear whether other death sentences yet to be carried out required resentencing, some experts believe the language, which says "any" case where a judge passes sentence without a unanimous jury recommendation is unconstitutional, may mean resentencing for all death-row inmates is necessary.

The last person executed by the state prior to the United States Supreme Court invalidated Florida's sentencing requirements was Oscar Ray Bolin.

Florida Board Certified Criminal Attorney Bjorn Brunvand has been defending individuals facing the death penalty in the Tampa Bay-area for over two decades. He and the attorneys at his office have the finest team of private investigators, forensic experts, and technology experts to bring to bear against a state or federal capital punishment case. Contact us today to discuss your Tampa Bay-area case.

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  • American inns of court
  • norml
  • National association of criminal defense lawyers
  • Clearwater bar association
  • Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers

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