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Death Penalty Measure One Step Away In FL House

Michael Rivera via wikimedia commons

A death penalty fix is moving to its final stop after gaining approval Wednesday.  The measure requires a unanimous jury sentence before imposing the death penalty.  But Polk county public defender Rex Dimmig warns Florida’s capital sentencing system is still on shaky ground.

“In short what the bill does is resolve the constitutional crisis du jour," Dimmig says, "while kicking the can—or in this case perhaps the barrel—of other problems further down the road.”

Dimmig points to the more than 300 cases state attorneys have identified in which they are currently seeking the death penalty.  Last year only 30 people received the sentence nationwide.  There could also be a wave of new appeals from a court decision allowing new hearings, but only for cases finalized after 2002.

But the measure's sponsor, Rep. Chris Sprowls (R-Palm Harbor), pushes back.  He contends it's not the Legislature's place to step into the Florida Supreme Court's retroactivity decision.