Justices are struggling to determine if Florida's redrawn death penalty is constitutional

Justices are struggling to determine if ’s redrawn death penalty is constitutional

The Florida Supreme Court continued to wrestle Tuesday with effects stemming from the state’s death penalty system being declared unconstitutional by the nation’s high court.

Florida lawmakers attempted to fix flaws cited by the high court. But now state justices are determining whether the Legislature’s changes can be applied to ongoing cases and also withstand any other constitutional challenges.

Chief Justice Jorge Labarga may have signaled the court’s unease with the newly crafted system. It requires at least 10 jurors to recommend a death sentence — up from the simple majority, which could be overruled by a judge — that federal jurists found violated a defendant’s rights.

Labarga asked attorney Martin McClain, arguing on the side of defendant Larry Darnell Perry, to trace how through Florida’s history, unanimous jury verdicts were needed to find an accused criminal guilty. But a lesser standard is applied in capital cases.

“I think the court is clearly concerned about that,” McClain said after Tuesday’s hearing.

Perry, of St. Cloud in Osceola County, is accused of murdering his three-month-old son in 2013. An appeals court has asked state justices to decide whether prosecutors can use the newly redrawn death penalty law in his trial, scheduled to begin in August.


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