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Justices reject 10 more death penalty appeals

The Florida Supreme Court on Friday turned down appeals by 10 longtime Death Row inmates, as it continued rejecting batches of similar cases.

The court has rejected 80 such appeals during the past two weeks in eight batches.

Like the earlier cases, Friday’s rulings involved Death Row inmates who were sentenced before a 2002 cutoff date. The inmates’ appeals stemmed from a 2016 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in a case known as Hurst v. Florida and a subsequent Florida Supreme Court decision.

The 2016 U.S. Supreme Court ruling found Florida’s death-penalty sentencing system was unconstitutional because it gave too much authority to judges, instead of juries. The subsequent Florida Supreme Court ruling said juries must unanimously agree on critical findings before judges can impose death sentences and must unanimously recommend the death penalty.

But the Florida Supreme Court made the new sentencing requirements apply to cases since June 2002. That is when the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling known as Ring v. Arizona that was a premise for striking down Florida’s death-penalty sentencing system in 2016.

In each of the 80 cases, the Death Row inmates had been sentenced to death before the Ring decision and argued unsuccessfully that the new unanimity requirements should also apply to their cases.

The inmates who lost appeals Friday were Floyd William Damren in a Clay County case; Samuel Jason Derrick in a Pasco County case; Michael Allen Griffin in a Miami-Dade County case; George Michael Hodges in a Hillsborough County case; Emanuel Johnson in a Sarasota County case; Gary Lawrence in a Santa Rosa County case; Antonio Lebaron Melton in an Escambia County case; Alvin Leroy Morton in a Pasco County case; Thomas M. Overton in a Monroe County case; and Norberto Pietri in a Palm Beach County case.

The News Service of Florida provides journalists, lobbyists, government officials and other civic leaders with comprehensive, objective information about the activities of state government year-round.

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