Sen. Gary Farmer and Rep. Joe Geller proposed legislation this week that would strike the death penalty from Florida’s penal code.
The two South Florida Democrats’ proposals would repeal all mentions of capital punishment from state law.
However, the Republican-led House and Senate are unlikely to act on those bills. The pair filed similar bills in the 2020 Legislative Session that gained no traction.
The death penalty issue reemerged in Florida during the 2020 Legislative Session after the Florida Supreme Court said it erred in a 2016 decision requiring a unanimous jury decision to sentence a defendant convicted of murder to death. Then-Senate President Bill Galvano said his chamber would not revisit the law, which changed in 2017 to meet the court’s ruling.
Under current law, prosecutors still need a unanimous jury decision to sentence defendants to death.
The court’s decision threw between 100 to 150 cases into legal limbo, experts said. Lawyers and anti-death penalty advocates scrambled to determine what it meant for existing cases in the resentencing phase.
A September report from the Death Penalty Information Center found that Black people have been overrepresented on death rows across the United States. Meanwhile, people who kill Black people are less likely to face the death penalty than people who kill White people.
The report found that throughout the modern era, people of color have been overrepresented on death row — in 2019, 52% of the death row inmates were Black, but that number has dropped to 42% this year, when approximately 60% of the population is White. But it also showed that the killers of White people were more likely than the killers of Black people to face the death penalty, and cases with White victims were more likely to be investigated.
Since the death penalty resumed in 1977, 295 Black defendants were executed for killing a White victim, but only 21 White defendants were executed for killing a Black victim even though Black people are disproportionately the victims of crime.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.