Timothy Hurst was convicted in Florida in 1998 of killing his manager at a fast-food restaurant and eventually sentenced to death by a 7-5 vote by the jury, meaning five jurors did not think he should be executed.
Florida is one of two states in the entire US that allows executions in the event of a divided jury, but that could change after the US Supreme Court revealed on Monday that it would review the state’s death penalty. Alabama is the other state that allows divided-jury executions.
The Supreme Court review comes from an appeal filed by Hurst that claims the state of Florida did not consider his intellectual disability in his sentencing and that executions from a divided jury are unconstitutional.
Hurst’s appeal also questions whether juries should decide capital punishment cases when the defendant has a mental disability. Currently in Florida, the jury makes a recommendation to a judge who makes the final decision.
“In the death penalty arena, while a clear majority of states have approved a spectrum of death penalty schemes, Florida remains unique among them in not requiring unanimity of either the finding or recommendation of death or of the aggravating factors that justified that verdict,'' said a petition filed in December by Hurst's attorney. ”It is a position the Florida Supreme Court has recognized, and it is one that court feels ill at ease about.“
In Hurst’s initial sentencing, the jury voted 11-1 to recommend that he be executed and the judge agreed with the recommendation, the Orlando Sentinel reported. Following an appeal in which the defence said Hurst was intellectually disabled, another jury voted 7-5 to recommend the death penalty.
Hurst’s case will be taken up by the Supreme Court at some point during its next term, which starts in October.
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