WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court says Florida’s system for sentencing people to death is unconstitutional because it gives too much power to judges – and not enough to juries – to decide capital sentences.

The justices on Tuesday ruled 8-1 that the state’s sentencing procedure is flawed because juries play only an advisory role in recommending death while the judge can reach a different decision.

The court ordered a new sentencing hearing for Timothy Lee Hurst, who was convicted of the 1998 murder of his manager at a Popeye’s restaurant in Pensacola. A jury divided 7-5 in favor of death, but a judge imposed the sentence.

Florida’s solicitor general argued that the system was acceptable because a jury first decides if the defendant is eligible for the death penalty.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.