Florida’s proposal for non-unanimous death sentences is major outlier: Legal experts

Florida won’t be alone if it adopts non-unanimous jury verdicts in death penalty cases, but it would be the biggest outlier of the outlying states on capital punishment, legal experts say.

Only three of the 27 states that have the death penalty do not require a unanimous verdict. In Missouri and Indiana, a judge can make the decision if a jury can’t reach unanimity. In Alabama, a 10-2 jury can hand down a death sentence. Seven states have imposed moratoriums on capital punishment.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, and state lawmakers moved to allow a death sentence if at least eight of the 12 jurors agree. The legislation was introduced in the wake of the 9-3 jury vote on the death penalty for the 2018 Parkland high school mass murderer.

“It’s probably a bad idea. It will tie things up in litigation,” John Blume, director at Cornell Law School’s Death Penalty Project, told The Washington Times. “It’s an outlier, and what it would allow really is sort of what you saw in non-unanimous sentencing. It would basically dilute or remove minority participation.”

Richard Dieter, interim executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, said the high school shooting case isn’t a reason for the state to upend the entire standard.

“It’s a big deal sort of going back on something so fundamental as our jury system in the country. It’s not just changing from 9-3 to 10-2. That might not be a big deal. But doing away with unanimity, I think, a lot of caution should be practiced in that change,” Mr. Dieter said. “And in the sense that this is happening in response to one case is a concern.”

A 2020 analysis from his group found that judge-imposed death sentences without jury unanimity “create a heightened risk

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2023 Sponsored Legal Fellowship | Death Penalty Information Center

Posted July 27, 2022

The Death Penalty Information Center in Washington, DC seeks applicants for a sponsored public interest legal fellowship to begin in the fall of 2023.

The Death Penalty Information Center is a national non-profit educational organization that serves the media and the public by publishing in-depth reports; tracking death sentences, exonerations, death warrants, executions, and appellate developments; and providing accurate information and fact-based analysis on capital punishment in the United States. DPIC has been cited thousands of times in court opinions, attorney briefs, research articles, and news stories.

Reporting to the Deputy Director, the fellow will research cutting edge issues in the administration of the death penalty. DPIC staff will work with candidates to develop a proposal for submission. DPIC is interested in working with candidates to apply for fellowships such as those funded by Equal Justice Works, Soros, or Justice Catalyst. DPIC is also open to fellowships funded by law schools, law firms, and other foundations.

DPIC’s legal fellows assist in updating and expanding DPIC’s web content, as well as contribute to DPIC projects such as its comprehensive database of death sentences, the Year End Report, and other DPIC reports and issue analyses. Legal fellows participate in monitoring executions and new death sentences, tracking death penalty cases of interest, and tracking legislative developments. Legal fellows also draft blog posts and case summaries for inclusion on DPIC’s website.

The fellow will be a full member of the staff, participating in weekly staff meetings, periodic staff retreats, and discussions about organizational planning and priorities. The legal fellow may work with law students, undergraduate interns, pro bono volunteers, and external partners on collaborative projects. We strongly encourage candidates from underrepresented communities to apply.

Required qualifications:

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New Evidence Leads Attorney to Urge New Court Trial for Death Row Inmate Richard Glossip

By Amy Berberyan

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK – After an investigation yielded new evidence concerning the case for death row inmate Richard Glossip, his attorney, Don Knight, is calling for a court trial before setting his client’s new execution date.

In 1997, Glossip—a manager at Best Budget Inn—was convicted of allegedly hiring Justin Sneed, the maintenance man, to beat to death the motel owner, Barry Van Treese, with a baseball bat.

Sneed confessed to the crime to avoid the death penalty, and claimed Glossip was behind the plot to kill Van Treese. He said Glossip had promised to pay him $10,000 for the murder.

Glossip was convicted and sentenced to death in 1998, though the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals voted to unanimously throw out this conviction in 2001 because Glossip received “unconstitutionally ineffective assistance of counsel.”

However, in 2004, a second jury again convicted Glossip and he was again sentenced to death. This time, in 2007, the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals voted to maintain the conviction.

Due to this case primarily relying on Sneed’s testimony, many have questioned whether or not he committed the murder and lied about Glossip’s cooperation to avoid the death penalty himself.

Sneed was addicted to methamphetamine at the time of Van Reese’s murder and noted to have broken into cars in the inn’s parking lot during his time working there.

In Glossip v. Gross, which took place in 2015, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that lethal injections involving midazolam did not constitute cruel and unusual punishment, as outlined in the Eighth Amendment.

Later that year, Glossip received three stays of execution as controversy rose around Oklahoma breaking protocol with its lethal injections.

Defense Attorney Knight said, “We respectfully disagree with the decision of the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals to set an

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