Florida’s right-wing Republican governor Ron DeSantis wants to end the constitutional requirement that juries in his state be unanimous in handing down death sentences.
Related: ‘The Executioners of the Nation’: The U.S. Supreme Court’s Shift to the Death Penalty
“Fine, get a supermajority,” DeSantis told the Florida Sheriffs Association on Monday. “But you can’t just say that one person votes no, and that’s why the death penalty is not given.”
“Maybe eight out of twelve or something,” he said added.
Florida has required unanimity from the jury in main cases since 2017, a change made after the U.S. Supreme Court rendered the state system unconstitutional by allowing a simple majority of a jury to recommend death and then allow a judge to decide whether he imposes it.
Florida death row inmates are allowed to choose between electrocution or lethal injection. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, 30 inmates have been acquitted while on death row in Florida — more than in any other US state.
DeSantis won reelection in a landslide last year. Emerging as a leading face of the nationally hardline Republican right, he has not run for the party’s 2024 presidential nomination, but he remains the only serious challenger to Donald Trump, the only confirmed candidate, in race polls .
Trump is also an enthusiastic advocate of state assassination, as his administration had rushed through 13 federal executions by the end of his time in the White House.
On Monday, DeSantis turned his anger on the recent trial of Nikolas Cruz, who killed 17 people at a Parkland, Florida, high school in February 2018 but was spared the death penalty after three jurors argued against it.
DeSantis said, “If you’re never going to carry out the sentence, you just can’t sit on the jury. Our law allows it. But you’re in a situation where you have 12 jurors and only one juror has a veto, then in the end you don’t get the sentence.”
Referring to Parkland, DeSantis falsely said, “And so I think you had an 11 to 1 decision where the 11 said he should get the death penalty. One said no. And we don’t know what was going on there. But I do think there are people who sit on these juries who never intend to carry out the death penalty.”
Cruz was sentenced to life without parole.
DeSantis said, “There were court rulings, all this other stuff. The bottom line is that it can probably be changed by law.”
In 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court, which said Florida’s death penalty statute violated the Sixth Amendment, was made up of five conservatives and four liberals. It voted 8-1 against Florida, only Samuel Alito disagreed.
Alito is now one of six conservatives in a hardline court who has shown a clear inclination to rule in favor of capital punishment advocates.
Bernard Harcourt, a professor of law at Columbia University, recently told The Guardian: “It is incredible what has become of the court. It is almost as if the conservative judges have become the executioners of the country.”