Supreme Court: Florida death penalty system is unconstitutional - Fox29 WFLX TV, West Palm Beach, FL-news & weather

Supreme Court: Florida death penalty system is unconstitutional

picture by CHRIS TURNER/CNN picture by CHRIS TURNER/CNN

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court says Florida's system for sentencing people to death is unconstitutional because it gives too much power to judges — and not enough to juries — to decide capital sentences.

The justices on Tuesday ruled 8-1 that the state's sentencing procedure is flawed because juries play only an advisory role in recommending death while the judge can reach a different decision.

The court ordered a new sentencing hearing for Timothy Lee Hurst, who was convicted of the 1998 murder of his manager at a Popeye's restaurant in Pensacola. A jury divided 7-5 in favor of death, but a judge imposed the sentence.

Florida's solicitor general argued that the system was acceptable because a jury first decides if the defendant is eligible for the death penalty.

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