New death penalty rules readied for Senate passage

Parkland Frostt
The legislation seeks to end the requirement for jury unanimity for criminals to be put to death.

The Senate readied a bill for passage that would strip away the requirement that a jury unanimously agree in order to deliver the death penalty.

Under the bill (SB 450), eight of 12 jurors — a “supermajority” — would have to agree for a defendant to face the death penalty.

Republican Sen. Blaise Ingoglia filed the bill, inspired by the Parkland school shooter’s trial. He said he wants to reduce the chances that jurors intent on making a point about the death penalty get a chance to stop the state’s ultimate punishment.

The legislation is a response to the trial of the Parkland shooter that concluded in October, In that trial, three jurors refused to hand down a death sentence despite video evidence showing the shooter on a rampage through Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14, 2018. The bloodbath left 17 people dead and 17 more wounded.

“The Parkland trial really exposed some of the problems with unanimity,” Ingoglia said. “Three people were just ideologically opposed” to the death penalty.

The legislation follows Gov. Ron DeSantis call for a change in the state’s death penalty law, also in response to the Parkland trial. The survivors of those killed in the state’s worst school shooting are on board with the legislation, committee hearings showed.

A 2020 Florida Supreme Court decision removed the requirement that a jury be unanimous when agreeing on a death sentence. But the Legislature needs to pass a law describing under what circumstances the death penalty will be imposed.

Still, Democratic Sen. Bobby Powell proposed making it a 10-juror majority that could sentence a killer to death. This legislation makes the state too much of an outlier, he argued.

“It puts us in line with only one other state in the United States, and that would be Alabama,” Powell of West Palm Beach said.

But the amendment failed.

The House version of the bill (HB 555) is awaiting its third committee hearing.

Anne Geggis

Anne Geggis is a South Florida journalist who began her career in Vermont and has worked at the Sun-Sentinel, the Daytona Beach News-Journal and the Gainesville Sun covering government issues, health and education. She was a member of the Sun-Sentinel team that won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the Parkland high school shooting. You can reach her on Twitter @AnneBoca or by emailing [email protected].



    March 29, 2023 at 9:15 pm

    I would give the police the authority to shoot litterbugs on sight.

    They’re the worst of humanity.

  • Rob Desantos

    March 30, 2023 at 11:13 am

    “Pro Life”

  • Elliott Offen

    March 30, 2023 at 11:49 am

    Donald Dillbeck used his last words to curse Deathsantis and the hogs in the legislature. Said DeSanctimonious was worse than him. He’s technically correct. DeSantis has more homicides. When an inmate is put to death, the death certificate reads “homicide.” Rick Scott has 26 homicides. He did the same thing as the men that he killed…he put someone to death because he didn’t like what the person did.

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