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What Changes to Florida's Death Penalty Laws Mean for those on Death Row

Florida Department of Corrections.
The execution chamber in Florida State Prison.

It’s been a year of confusion for Florida’s roughly 400 death penalty cases. A series of court cases called the ultimate punishment unconstitutional, but a new law rapidly passed by lawmakers and signed by Gov. Rick Scott changes the state's death penalty to require unanimous juries to hand down a death sentence.

The Florida Supreme Court’s ruling that any jury with a ten-to-two supermajority vote in favor of execution was unconstitutional precipitated the change, which is the second to Florida's death penalty laws in as many years. In 2016, the Governor took the death sentence decision out of the hands of judges who, for decades, had been the arbiter of the ultimate punishment.

The changes to the state's death penalty laws have changed so frequently that some prosecutors, like Orlando-area State Attorney Aramis Ayala was removed by Gov. Scott for refusing to pursue the death penalty.

Thursday at 1 p.m., Karen Gottllieb with the Florida Center for Capital Representation, explains what these changes mean to the prisoners on Florida's death row.

Southwest Florida-area State Attorney Stephen Russell also joins the program to explain what these changes mean for capital cases from the region, and the sentences handed down under laws that have now been deemed unconstitutional.

Matthew Smith is a reporter and producer of WGCU’s Gulf Coast Live.