On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the sentencing of a Florida man to death was unconstitutional. The next day, the state’s supreme court ordered officials to figure out how that ruling affected the case of another man, set to be executed in under a month.
The brief order from the Florida high court came in the case of Cary Michael Lambrix, who currently is scheduled to be executed on Feb. 11. On Jan. 11, his lawyers had filed a petition for relief based on a similar argument to that made by Timothy Hurst at the U.S. Supreme Court.
After the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Jan. 12 in Hurst’s case that Florida’s death sentencing law was unconstitutional under the Sixth Amendment because it violated the right to a jury by making the imposition of a death sentence the responsibility of a judge and not a jury, the Florida Supreme Court amended its order in Lambrix’s case.
“The state will need to make changes to its death-sentencing statutes,” said Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi in a statement. “The impact of the court’s ruling on existing death sentences will need to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.”
The decision could ultimately allow for sentences to be challenged for many of the 385 men and five women currently sitting on Florida’s death row. It could also lead to challenges in other states.
“This shows that the Supreme Court continues to apply close scrutiny to the death penalty,” said Cassandra Stubbs, director of the ACLU Capital Punishment Project, to CNN of the initial decision. “I think it’s really a harbinger of the day coming when the Supreme Court is going to strike it down.”
Michael Radelet, an expert on Florida’s death penalty, told NPR that the ruling’s effect is still unclear. “The Florida Supreme Court has a dozen different directions that it can go in and the only certain thing is that this is going to be litigated for a long time.”
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