Supreme Court Decision Clears the Path for Florida Executions
The number of inmates on Florida’s death row may soon decrease as a Supreme Court decision cleared the way for the state to start executions again. In February, the Florida State Supreme Court blocked pending procedures, including the planned execution of a convicted murderer. At the center of the controversy was the lethal injection cocktail that the state uses to carry out executions. According to a report in the Orlando Sentinel, the United States Supreme Court was scheduled to hear an Oklahoma case regarding the same method of lethal injection used in Florida. The highest state court blocked the execution until the U.S. Supreme Court made a decision.
The Lethal Injection Procedure and Controversy
The Florida lethal injection process involves the administration of three drugs:
- The first reportedly numbs the inmate and puts him to sleep;
- The second causes muscle paralysis; and
- The last affects the heart of the inmate, causing cardiac arrest
Opponents of the process assert that the first administered drug, called midazolam, does not render all inmates unconscious effectively. As reported in recent news articles, the drug allegedly caused two problematic executions, occurring in Arizona and Oklahoma. In their decision, court justices held that there was insufficient evidence to support these claims. They also ruled that the appellants did not meet the necessary threshold for the declaration of an unconstitutional execution method.
Writing for the majority, Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito wrote, “After all, while most humans wish to die a painless death, many do not have that good fortune…Holding that the Eighth Amendment demands the elimination of essentially all risk of pain would effectively outlaw the death penalty altogether.”
Immediately following the Supreme Court ruling, the Florida Attorney General’s office filed a petition to lift the execution moratorium. This would lead the way for the state’s 22nd execution since Governor Rick Scott took office.
In the state of Florida, very serious crimes involve a potential death sentence. The list includes:
- First degree murder;
- Felony murder;
- Capital drug trafficking, importation or manufacturing; and
- Capital sexual battery.
Trials for these offenses consist of two phases: the guilt determination and the sentencing. During the initial phase, the jury determines whether the defendant is guilty of the accused offense. A guilty verdict requires a unanimous decision from the jury. During the second phase, the jury decides whether to execute or give a sentence of life in prison. This decision only requires a majority vote from the jury and the judge has the discretion to overturn the decision.
Both phases of a capital felony case are extremely important. The life of the defendant is literally in danger and such high stakes require a vigorous and comprehensive defense from a competent lawyer.
If you or a loved one is facing a charge in the Florida courts that carries a possible death sentence, our Miami lawyers can provide you with an aggressive defense. Contact Ratzan & Faccidomo, LLC in Miami today at (305) 330-3905 for a confidential and free consultation.