June 17, 2015

Whether Florida’s death penalty scheme violates the Constitution by allowing the judge, rather than a jury, to make critical factfinding determinations.

Under Florida law, the existence of aggravating and mitigating factors is determined by the judge during the sentencing phase of a capital case. The jury plays an advisory role only, and even then its recommendation can be based on a simple majority vote. Supporting the defendant’s contention that this system is unconstitutional, the ACLU’s amicus brief focuses on the constitutional requirement of a unanimous jury whose factual findings are dispositive when the state seeks to impose the death penalty.

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