(Newswire.net -- February 3, 2016) Fort Lauderdale, FL --The U.S. Supreme Court declared Florida's death penalty sentencing scheme unconstitutional in an 8-1 decision, ruling that instead of a judge, a jury must determine the critical findings required to impose capital punishment on a defendant. Andrew Byer, a Florida attorney, believes that this ruling will have significant implications for Florida’s death row.
"The Sixth Amendment requires a jury, not a judge, to find each fact necessary to impose a sentence of death. A jury's mere recommendation is not enough," wrote Sonia Sotomayor.
This ruling means that Timothy Lee Hurst’s case will go back to the lower courts. Hurst was convicted of murder and sentenced to death in 2000 for stabbing his coworker, Cynthia Lee Harrison, to death in 1998. Hurst was resentenced in 2012, as ordered by the Florida Supreme Court. At the second trial, the jury voted 7-5 in favor of death penalty. After reaching his own finding of the facts, the judge sentenced Hurst to death.
The ruling will apply to inmates whose appeals are ongoing. However, it is not yet known how many out of 389 inmates on the state’s death row will be eligible for resentencing. According to David Menschel, a criminal-defense attorney who represented death row defendants in Florida, those sentenced after the Supreme Court’s 2002 decision in Ring might be eligible for resentencing as well.
"The substance of the ruling would affect the vast majority of Florida's death row inmates,” says Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, an organization opposing capital punishment. Dunham expects the ruling to unleash a wave of litigation.
"Every defendant in Florida whose death sentence was imposed in this matter will be challenging the constitutionality of his or her death sentence under Hurst," Dunham adds.
Connie Fuselier, the mother of Timothy Hursts’s victim, says she cannot bear the thought of more legal proceedings. "I just want it over with. I want to know he has no more appeals," she said.
She says she does not care whether or not he is executed, and at one point during the several appeals the case has spawned, she had told the prosecutor that she would be satisfied with a life sentence without parole.
Byer believes that, whether or not one opposes or supports capital punishment, justice would be properly served if unanimous penalty phase juries were required by the Legislature. Read more about his law practice here: http://www.manta.com/c/mm37lx4/andrew-a-byer
Andrew Byer is a highly trained Florida attorney with over thirty years of legal experience. He has been based in Fort Lauderdale for several years and specializes in transactional/business law, real estate law, international law, contract law, and select criminal cases. Fluent in both French and Italian, Byer has been able to address the legal concerns of the growing immigrant and expat community in Florida. Just recently, he opened a new law office at One East Broward. Learn more about Andrew here.
Law Offices of Andrew A. Byer1 E Broward Blvd
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301