A recent SCOTUS decision leaves Florida death row inmates in limbo and the state without a death penalty law. On Tuesday, the Florida Supreme Court held a hearing to see whether the decision would apply to pending executions, as well.
The recent Supreme Court ruling could change the way Florida sends inmates to the death row for good. Florida, which has the second-most crowded death row in the nation, after California, sentences inmates to death by a judge’s decision, not by an unanimous jury decision as in other states. This is why, U.S. justices concluded that Florida’s death penalty legislation is at odds with the Sixth Amendment.
As a result, the Sunshine State’s lawmakers will be struggling to come up with a new method to sentence convicts to death in the next six weeks, before their session expires.
In the meantime, lawmakers and courts need to decide whether the 390 people on the death row would continue to stay there or have their sentences commuted to life in prison. About 40 inmates have an ongoing appeal.
But for two inmates the situation is critical. Cary Michael Lambrix, 55, who has spent 31 years on the death row, is slated to be executed Feb. 11. Plus, he can no longer appeal because all his appeals ran out before the SCOTUS ruling. Another inmate waits to be executed in March under the old death penalty law.
In Pinellas County, a court ruled that death penalty cannot be applied to an incoming murder case because the state currently lacks a death penalty law.
Lambrix asked the state’s top court to block his execution on Tuesday. The 55-year-old Florida man landed on the death row after being sentenced for a double murder he committed in 1984. According to court papers, he killed a couple during a visit at his trailer.
The Governor issued his death warrant last fall, and he is expected to die by lethal shot next Thursday. In January, the state’s top court refused to block his execution, but allowed him oral arguments after the Supreme Court ruling on Jan. 12, 2016.
The inmate admitted that he killed the man visiting his trailer but only in self-defense. Reportedly, the victim assaulted the woman and Lambrix tried to protect her. His attorneys also said that he might be innocent since prosecution didn’t include DNA tests on samples from the victims’ clothing and the murder weapon.
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