Gov. DeSantis Calls for Supermajority to Decide Death Penalty Cases, End Unanimous Requirement
Gov. Ron DeSantis started the week by visiting the Florida Sheriff’s Association (FSA), where he discussed his proposal to allow juries with a supermajority to administer the death penalty instead of the typical unanimous requirement.
DeSantis made his statements at the FSA’s winter conference in St. Johns County, where he discussed the multiple death penalty verdicts left unachieved because of a single rogue juror’s “idiosyncratic” approach.
“Fine, have a supermajority. But you can’t just say one person (can decide against the death penalty). So maybe eight out of 12 have to agree? Or something. But we can’t be in a situation where one person can just derail this.”
DeSantis’s focus on the issue came in the wake of the trial of the Parkland shooter, who killed 17 people with an AR-15 on Valentine’s Day 2018, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in one of the most infamous school shootings in American history. The shooter escaped the death penalty based on one juror.
DeSantis argued that a juror who will never vote for a punishment on the table in a case shouldn’t be on a jury at all.
“If you will never administer the punishment, you just can’t be on the jury. Our law authorizes it. But you’re in a situation where you have 12 jurors, and just one juror vetoes it, then you end up not getting the sentence. And so I think you had an 11 to one decision, where the 11 said he should get capital punishment.”
This issue is typically something dealt with by attorneys during jury selection. DeSantis acknowledged that no one knows what motivates the jurors’ votes but remained confident it occurred often enough to justify a statute change.
“One said no. And we don’t know what went into that. But I do think there are people who get on these juries who never intend to administer capital punishment. Bottom line is this probably can be changed by statute.”
DeSantis said that a high burden of a majority, or supermajority, is justified but that he was “disappointed” that a single juror could throw off a verdict.
The Supreme Court Ruled in a 2016 case that a simple majority was not enough to give the death penalty. Still, it seems that DeSantis is looking to compromise with the originalist court on a supermajority.
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