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Florida Senate Not Expected to Consider Death Penalty Issue

Chief Justice Resigns

The Florida Senate does not expect to address a state Supreme Court ruling any time soon regarding a lack of unanimous jury recommendations for death sentences.

In a 4-1 decision last week, justices said the court “got it wrong” four years ago when it required fully support by a jury to send someone to death row.

The 2016 decision came at a time when the U.S. Supreme Court had found Florida’s death-penalty system to be unconstitutional. The Legislature passed a law the following year requiring unanimous jury recommendations in such cases.

According to Republican Florida Senator Rob Bradley, the Supreme Court acknowledged last week that the 2017 legislative decision is “the law of the state.” He added, “They opined on the constitutional matter, they did not opine on the validity of the state law. We passed a state law dealing with the death penalty. It requires unanimous jury votes to put someone to death.”

Last week’s ruling came in a Polk County case in which the defendant, Mark Anthony Poole, was convicted in the 2001 first-degree murder of Noah Scott, as well as the attempted murder and sexual battery of Loretta White. He was also found guilty of armed burglary and armed robbery.

In 2011, a jury recommended by an 11-1 vote that Poole be put to death, a sentence which a judge eventually imposed.

However, based on the state Supreme Court’s 2016 decision, his death sentence was later vacated, since it lacked a unanimous jury recommendation.

The state subsequently appealed, resulting in the Supreme Court’s ruling last Thursday that Poole’s death sentence be reinstated.