Florida lawmakers seek to make it easier for juries to impose death penalty

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – After a jury couldn’t agree on the death penalty in the Parkland school shooting, Republican lawmakers in Tallahassee are proposing to make it easier to send condemned convicts to death row.

The changes would allow a jury to recommend the death penalty even when only eight of 12 jurors agree, the plan aligns with those endorsed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

“I’m sorry--when you murder 17 people in cold blood, the only appropriate punishment is capital punishment,” said DeSantis at a press conference on Wednesday.

The proposed change comes six years after lawmakers required unanimous jury recommendations in death cases after a ruling by the Florida Supreme Court.

Defense Attorney Eric Schwartzreich still thinks a unanimous verdict is appropriate considering the gravity of the situation.

“There’s nothing more serious in our criminal justice system than death,” said Schwartzreich. “We do not want to want to have one innocent person that could get the death penalty, that’s why we have the unanimous jurors.”

The parents of Alaina Petty and Alyssa Alhadeff, who were killed in the 2018 Parkland shooting, told Local 10 News that the bill is “a step in the right direction for justice.”

The bill is also backed by Broward County Schools Vice Chair Debra Hixon, whose husband Chris was also killed in the Parkland shooting.

About the Author:

Janine Stanwood joined Local 10 News in February 2004 as an assignment editor. She is now a general assignment reporter. Before moving to South Florida from her Washington home, Janine was the senior legislative correspondent for a United States senator on Capitol Hill.