“It is my solemn duty to uphold the laws of Florida, and my foremost concern is always for the victims and their loved ones,” Scott said in a statement. “I hope this legislation will allow families of these horrific crimes to get the closure they deserve.”
The law was updated nearly two months after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Florida’s unique system of imposing death sentences, because it previously let judges make that decision, rather than juries.
It is one of only three states to have carried out an execution in each of the last five years (along with Texas and Oklahoma), according to the Death Penalty Information Center.
Under the new law, jurors must unanimously agree that the case involves at least one of what are called aggravating circumstances — things like if the crime is deemed “especially heinous, atrocious, or cruel” or if it occurred while someone was also carrying out a robbery, kidnapping or other serious crime.
Previously, the judges could weigh aggravating factors as well as mitigating ones (which could include if a person is emotionally disturbed or has no prior criminal record) and then, “notwithstanding the recommendation of a majority of the jury,” determine a sentence.
While the new law seeks to amend the issues raised by the justices, it does not clear up what happens to the hundreds already sentenced to death in Florida.
The state Supreme Court heard arguments in February about that very question, with the state arguing that the Hurst ruling was not retroactive and a death-row inmate’s attorneys arguing that the ruling made his sentence unconstitutional. After oral arguments, the Florida Supreme Court agreed to call off that inmate’s lethal injection indefinitely.
The rewritten law increases what it takes for a person to be sentenced to death, making it so that at least 10 jurors have to vote for a death sentence rather than the seven jurors previously needed.
This bill passed the state Senate by a margin of 35 to 5 on Thursday after passing the state House of Representatives by a vote of 93 to 20 last month.