« "Hey, Grandpa: End Mandatory Minimums!" | Main | Right on Crime poll reports most Texans want to "spend more money on effective treatment programs [rather than] on our prison system" »

March 9, 2015

SCOTUS finally takes up whether Florida's capital system is constitutional in light of Apprendi and Ring

One big question that arose way back in 2000 when the Supreme Court issued its landmark Apprendi decision was whether capital sentencing schemes that incorporated judicial death penalty determinations were still constitutional.  In 2002, in Ring, the Supreme Court somewhat clarified matter when it found Arizona's capital sentencing scheme problematic in light of Apprendi.  Now, finally and remarkably, the Supreme Court has decided to decide whether Florida's capital sentencing scheme is constitutional in light of Apprendi and Ring.

This new SCOTUS order list has just one new cert grant, and here it is:

HURST, TIMOTHY L. V. FLORIDA: The motion of petitioner for leave to proceed in forma pauperis is granted. The petition for a writ of certiorari is granted limited to the following question: Whether Florida's death sentencing scheme violates the Sixth Amendment or the Eighth Amendment in light of this Court's decision in Ring v. Arizona, 536 U.S. 584 (2002).

Notably, according to the Death Penalty Information Center's data, Florida has carried out 39 executions since the Supreme Court handed down its ruling in Ring in 2002, and I suspect a good number of those Florida condemned (and now dead) murderers asserted that their death sentencing violated the Sixth Amendment and/or the Eighth Amendment in light of Ring.  If there is some kind of afterlife for executed murderers, I expect there will now be some interesting SCOTUS talk in the Florida section of that netherworld.

March 9, 2015 at 10:11 AM | Permalink


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference SCOTUS finally takes up whether Florida's capital system is constitutional in light of Apprendi and Ring:


I wondered when this day would come. 13 years after Ring. I wonder why they chose this one? Every case from state and federal court has raised this issue repeatedly to no avail. Not even a dissent from denial of certiorari.

Posted by: DaveP | Mar 9, 2015 10:26:52 AM

As noted on this blog, Sotomayor did dissent from denial in a case at least somewhat related:



I was just told the two states have somewhat different rules but that they are largely similar.

Posted by: Joe | Mar 9, 2015 11:05:20 AM

Wasn't Sotomayor's dissent focused on jury override? I will read the links and refresh.

Posted by: DaveP | Mar 9, 2015 11:09:45 AM

I think the issue covered falls within at least part of the cert. grant & the dissent in the Fl. case did cite Sotomayor's dissent -- http://www.scotusblog.com/case-files/cases/hurst-v-florida/

Posted by: Joe | Mar 9, 2015 11:30:38 AM

I think reversal is very possible in this case on direct review. Justice Pariente writes extremely well and also predicted SCOTUS reversing in Hall. I would think if Hurst prevails, this would be not be retroactive to cases that were final.

Posted by: DaveP | Mar 9, 2015 11:47:14 AM

Apparently this was on postconviction.

Posted by: DaveP | Mar 9, 2015 3:58:22 PM

Whether or not it is retroactive could turn on whether the decision is issued under the Sixth or Eighth Amendment. It seems that the Court has rephrased the question presented as broadly as possible, perhaps in part to leave its options open.

Posted by: anon | Mar 9, 2015 4:03:16 PM

I'm shocked this is happening. I figured it either would have happened a long time ago or not at all. It only exists in a couple of states and, for those states, the law is pretty settled. I might not agree with the constitutionality of these procedures, but I figured it was unlikely to be changed.

Posted by: Erik M | Mar 9, 2015 6:02:20 PM

I wonder if a jury override case from Alabama is on deck to reexamine Spaziano? Justice Blackmun wrote the opinion. Interesting.

The last word from SCOTUS on Florida's sentencing scheme was Hildwin. The jury in that case recommended the death sentence unanimously. Hurst was 11-1 on the first trial and 7-5 on the resentencing.

Posted by: DaveP | Mar 9, 2015 6:48:15 PM

DaveP: The NY Times had a Sidebar column the other day noting that there are two override petitions currently pending from Alabama. One involves the veteran with PTSD (who had a 12-0 life rec overridden to death) that Sotomayor cited in her dissent from denial about override a couple of terms ago. Not sure when they are going to be conferenced.

Posted by: anon | Mar 11, 2015 10:24:19 AM

Anon: thanks for the info. I find it hard to understand how a unanimous life recommendation that is overridden can be upheld by the courts. I believe Matthew Marshall is the only inmate on Florida death row with the same particulars.

I would expect a cert grant on one of those Alabama cases soon. SCOTUS finally seems ready to answer some questions that have lingering for years.

Posted by: DaveP | Mar 12, 2015 2:33:58 PM

Post a comment

In the body of your email, please indicate if you are a professor, student, prosecutor, defense attorney, etc. so I can gain a sense of who is reading my blog. Thank you, DAB