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Rick Scott signs death penalty overhaul into law

in Statewide/Top Headlines by

Gov. Rick Scott has signed into law a measure that overhauls Florida’s death penalty by requiring that at least 10 out of 12 jurors recommend an execution for it to be ordered.

Scott approved the bill (HB 7101) on Monday, according to a statement from his office.

Florida previously only required that a majority of jurors recommend a death sentence but the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the state’s sentencing law was unconstitutional.

“It is my solemn duty to uphold the laws of Florida, and my foremost concern is always for the victims and their loved ones,” Scott said. “I hope this legislation will allow families of these horrific crimes to get the closure they deserve.”

The Republican Scott set a record by presiding over more executions – 13 – in his first term than any other modern-era Florida governor. He has now signed 25 death warrants in total, 23 of which have been carried out.

In 2013, Scott also signed “The Timely Justice Act,” which requires governors to sign death warrants within 30 days after a Death Row prisoner exhausts all appeals, among other provisions.

The Supreme Court ruled in January that the current law is unconstitutional because it allows judges to reach a different decision than juries, which have only an advisory role in recommending death.

The state Supreme Court halted two pending executions after the ruling, and court cases across the state had been put on hold.

Legislators were initially divided over whether they should require a unanimous jury recommendation in death penalty cases. Florida is one of only a handful of states that does not require a unanimous decision by the jury.

The bill sent to Scott does not apply to the 389 inmates now sitting on Florida’s death row. The state Supreme Court has been asked to decide whether the U.S. Supreme Court ruling should apply to those already sentenced to death.

Before joining Florida Politics, journalist and attorney James Rosica was state government reporter for The Tampa Tribune. He attended journalism school in Washington, D.C., working at dailies and weekly papers in Philadelphia after graduation. Rosica joined the Tallahassee Democrat in 1997, later moving to the courts beat, where he reported on the 2000 presidential recount. In 2005, Rosica left journalism to attend law school in Philadelphia, afterwards working part time for a public-interest law firm. Returning to writing, he covered three legislative sessions in Tallahassee for The Associated Press, before joining the Tribune’s re-opened Tallahassee bureau in 2013. He can be reached at jim@floridapolitics.com.

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