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Florida's Legal Lions Weigh In On Death Penalty

A group of Florida’s most revered legal scholars is asking the state Supreme Court to re-sentence the state’s 390 death row inmates to life in prison.

In January, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Florida’s unique death sentencing system. The group filed a friend-of-the-court brief ahead of Thursday’s Florida Supreme Court hearing for convicted murderer Timothy Lee Hurst.  

The group’s attorney, Sonya Rudentsine says the high court ruling should trigger a 1970s era state law that requires death row inmates to be re-sentenced to life.

“775.082(2) is very clear that when a death sentence is found unconstitutional, life sentence shall be imposed. There’s just simply no ambiguity there.”

The group includes former Florida Supreme Court Justice Rosemary Barkett, former American Bar Association President Martha Barnett and former Florida State University President Sandy D’Alemberte.

Prosecutors argue the court should apply the ruling on a case-by-case basis and they’ve identified fewer than 50.

A Miami native, former WFSU reporter Jim Ash is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years of experience, most of it in print. He has been a member of the Florida Capital Press Corps since 1992.