Analysis of a News Article on Florida’s Jury System


Analysisof a News Article on Florida’s Jury System

TheLegal Concepts Raised In the News Article

Anarticle appeared in the New York Times on 12thJanuary 2016 about an action by the Supreme Court to strike down anaspect of Florida’s death penalty. According to Liptak (2016), theSupreme Court ruled that Florida judicial system did not give thejurors a sufficient role in deciding whether the defendant receives adeath punishment or not. One key legal concept being raised in thisarticle is that the Sixth Amendment requires a jury to decide ondeath penalties and not a judge. From the article, it is clear thatFlorida is off the constitution when it comes to death penalties.Despite the presence of a jury, the judge seems to have the final sayin determining a death sentence. Another legal concept beinghighlighted in this article is a defendant’s right to a fairhearing before a jury. The main role of a jury is to ensure that adefendant receives a just punishment and since in Florida the jury isnot being given a key role to play, then the death penalties areunconstitutional and against human rights.

Thereason the issue is receiving press coverage

Currently,Florida comes second after California in terms of the number ofinmates on death row (Liptak, 2016). This issue has received presscoverage because of the unjust ruling made on the case of Hurstv. Florida, No. 14-7505.This case involved the defendant Lee Hurst who was found guilty ofkilling his co-worker Cynthia Lee Harrison in Escambia County. Thedefendant was sentenced to death in 2000 but the Supreme Courtordered a resentence in 2012, where a second jury voted by a 7-to-5.However, the judge evaluated the evidence independently and decidedthat Mr. Hurst must face a death sentence. It is clear that theprocedure used by the judge was unconstitutional because a jury’smere opinions are not adequate to declare death sentence and thejudge autonomously made the final decision.

Applicationof legal concepts

Thesixth amendment states that it is the role of the jury and not thejudge to evaluate each fact necessary to enforce a death sentence.The sixth amendment was made to protect a defendant’s right to afair jury. Applying this sixth amendment therefore, Florida shouldhave based the final ruling Hurst’s case on a thorough analysis ofeach fact and not the jury’s mere recommendations. However, theselegal concepts are applied differently in the State of Arizona as thearticle explains (Liptak, 2016). In 2002 in Ringv. Arizonacase, the Supreme Court ruled that the work of a jury is to find theaccurate findings to either support or oppose death sentences. Thelaw requires the judge to find the facts in a case and make thefairest decisions based on the evidence found and not based on thejury’s verdict.

Personalopinions on this issue

Fromthe article, it is clear that the Florida’s procedure of issuing adeath sentence is biased. I believe that each defendant has a rightto an unbiased jury. The fact that in Hurstv. Floridacase the judge evaluated the evidence independently makes it biasedand unconstitutional. I support the Supreme Court’s action toensure the jury play a significant role in analyzingthe facts that should either support or nullify a death sentence toenhance transparency and justice in the criminal justice system.


LiptakA. (2016).SupremeCourt Strikes Down Part of Florida Death Penalty.New York Times.Retrieved from: court-death-penalty-hurst-v-florida.html?ref=topics&amp_r=1