Every time I covered a death penalty trial in Florida–my first was in 1995 where Jeff Ashton was the prosecutor and Belvin Perry was the judge–I was a bit uneasy with their law that allowed a death recommendation to go to the judge on a majority vote. So long as seven of the 12 jurors agreed that death was appropriate, their “advisory sentence” was sent to the judge. The judge had the power to follow the jury’s recommendation, or not. By law, though, he had to give their determination “great weight.” It’s my understanding that, in most cases, Florida judges followed the jury’s recommendation. In 2002, in Ring v. Arizona, the United States Supreme Court held that factual determinations, such as the existence of aggravating factors, must be made by a jury, not the judge. Because the Florida scheme allowed…

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