Speed Reads

lowering the threshold

DeSantis signs bill loosening requirements for death penalty vote in Florida

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has signed a bill that will end the unanimous jury requirement for recommending the death sentence, "reducing the number of jurors [needed] to recommend a death sentence to the lowest threshold of any state with capital punishment," CNN says.

SB 450, which allows juries to recommend a death sentence with an 8-4 vote, was prompted after a jury decided against a death sentence for Nikolas Cruz, the gunman responsible for the 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Cruz received a life sentence without the possibility of parole when three of the 12 jurors voted against the death penalty, leaving "some family members of the victims disappointed and upset," CNN adds. 

"Once a defendant in a capital case is found guilty by a unanimous jury, one juror should not be able to veto a capital sentence," DeSantis said in a statement. "I'm proud to sign legislation that will prevent families from having to endure what the Parkland families have and ensure proper justice will be served in the state of Florida."

Unanimous sentencing votes are required in almost all 27 states that permit the death penalty. The new threshold in Florida, which went into effect when DeSantis signed the bill, is lower than Alabama's 10-2 majority requirement. 

Critics warn that the new law will make it too easy to impose a death sentence. "Florida already has the highest number of death row exonerations in the country," Tiffani Lennon, the executive director of the ACLU of Florida, said in a statement. With SB 450 and other similar laws, Lennon continued, "Florida is rapidly widening the net of who will be sent to death row with absolutely no consideration for the flaws that will inevitably lead to the harm of more innocent people."