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Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops

Statement on Eliminating Unanimous Jury Requirement in Capital Sentencing

April 14, 2023 | Today, the Florida legislature passed a bill to replace current law that requires juries in capital cases to be unanimous when recommending a death sentence. Michael Sheedy, executive director for the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops (FCCB) issued the following statement:

“It is stunning that the Florida legislature would weaken a common-sense law passed just six years ago that required unanimous agreement by a jury in order to sentence someone to death. The new legislation requiring only eight of 12 jurors to agree in order to impose a death sentence takes our state backwards to outlier status once again with the lowest standard for imposing a death sentence. The alternative to death of life without parole is a severe sentence that keeps society safe.

“As Florida persists in its implementation of the death penalty, the process should be as reliable and just as possible. Unanimity is required in every other circumstance when a jury is summoned in Florida. The harshest punishment that the state imposes should require the strictest standards.

“We are deeply saddened for the victims of violent crime. We acknowledge the pain experienced by their families and pray they receive comfort and healing in their time of need. The death penalty neither restores life nor alleviates suffering but only perpetuates violence and vengeance.

“The FCCB continues to oppose state-sanctioned killing and remains hopeful that despite this setback Florida will soon join the growing number of states that have ended the use of the death penalty.”