Florida's death penalty law has been struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court as unconstitutional, The Huffington Post's Cristian Farias reports. The reason? Allowing judges, instead of juries, to impose the death penalty violates the Sixth Amendment. The court ruled 8-1 that only a jury, not a judge, can decide the "aggravating circumstances" that would lead to the decision that execution is the appropriate sentence for a defendant.
A judge in murderer Timothy Hurst's case independently decided to impose capital punishment. Justice Sonia Sotomayor, writing for the court, opined that the Sixth Amendment requires Florida to base Hurst's sentence on a jury verdict, not judicial factfinding.