Gov. Ron DeSantis started out his week with the Florida Sheriff’s Association (FSA), where he discussed his desire to allow juries to administer the death penalty via a supermajority vote, rather than requiring unanimity.
“Fine, have a supermajority. But you can’t just say one person (can decide against the death penalty). So maybe eight out of 12 have to agree? Or something. But we can’t be in a situation where one person can just derail this,” DeSantis said at the group’s winter conference in St. Johns County, discussing death penalty verdicts left unachieved because of a rogue juror.
DeSantis told the FSA Monday that he wants a “supermajority” to constitute a sufficient vote count for execution. The pitch comes in the wake of the Parkland killer not getting the death penalty because of what DeSantis called one person’s “idiosyncratic” approach to the proceedings, though there ultimately were three votes not to execute the murderer.
The former student killed 17 people with an AR-15 on Valentine’s Day 2018, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in one of the most infamous school shootings in American history.
After he made some points about the justice system’s delays and the slow “wheels of justice,” DeSantis then went on to impugn the “one” holdout juror’s credibility for going against the consensus.
“If you will never administer the punishment, you just can’t be on the jury. Our law authorizes it. But you’re in a situation where you have 12 jurors, and just one juror vetoes it, then you end up not getting the sentence,” DeSantis lamented. “And so I think you had an 11 to one decision, where the 11 said he should get capital punishment.”
“One said no. And we don’t know what went into that,” DeSantis acknowledged. “But I do think there are people who get on these juries who never intend to administer capital punishment.”
“Bottom line is this probably can be changed by statute,” he added. “And it’s one thing to say, yeah, obviously a majority of the jury has to, maybe a supermajority. But that one person, being able to veto that?”
DeSantis said he was “disappointed to see that,” and he felt the contrary vote simply was “based on one person’s idiosyncratic views.”
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2016’s Hurst v. Florida that a simple majority would be insufficient to execute, but it’s clear the supermajority may be considered a compromise by the Governor that could fly with a more conservative court.