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Florida’s unconstitutional death penalty

Last week, the Supreme Court ruled Florida’s death penalty process unconstitutional based on the practice of a judge and not a jury determining capital punishment. 

Florida was one of three states that allowed a judge to hand out a death sentence even if the jury did not unanimously agree. It’s no wonder the court ruled this process unconstitutional.

Juries are in place to ensure no one can single-handedly take the life of another in a court of law. If there is even a shred of doubt as to whether the evidence supports execution, the defendant should live. 

Since 1973, there have been 156 prisoner exonerations on death row. In fact, a study from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reported at least 4.1 percent of those sentenced to death are actually innocent. 

Using a jury system reduces the number of inmates placed on death row, thus reducing the number of innocent lives taken by the penalty. The argument over whether anyone should have the right to take the life of someone else has been ongoing for decades and will not be solved in the foreseeable future. 

However, one thing’s for sure: If a jury does not agree to give a convict lethal injections or send them to the chair, a judge should not be able to overrule them.

Everyone has different opinions on how far capital punishment should go. Should the highest penalty be death or life in prison? Instead of one person holding that power it will now be up to the jury to decide a criminal’s fate.

The Supreme Court voted 8-1 on the issue, leaving many to question how the state will move forward. Florida has 390 convicts on death row, two of which were intended to face execution in February and March. 

The ruling is currently being reviewed by Florida officials who want to resume executions as soon as possible. 

Many are theorizing those already convicted could now challenge their cases due to the ruling. If this is the case it’s expected that many will see their verdicts altered to life sentences in the upcoming months, which will greatly benefit state funds. 

Mark Elliot, the director of Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty stated, “it costs over $1 million per execution, higher than keeping these people in prison for a lifetime.”

The state would save approximately $51 million each year by changing the punishment of the first-degree murderers to life in prison without parole, according to a study by the Palm Beach Post. 

At what price does vengeance become unreasonable? Florida’s voters will have to determine just that when the cost of killing outweighs the preferred punishment. 

By voting to keep the death penalty on the books, they choose to allocate those hefty sums of money toward executions rather than education or environmental sustainability programs. But if the general public wishes to keep the practice, it will be continued. 

The recent ruling has made the necessary change to ensure convictions are as fair as possible. While not everyone agrees with the practice, it is irrefutably a logical decision to ensure only a jury can make the choice of ending a life. 


Breanne Williams is a junior majoring in mass communications.