Earlier this year, the News Roundup noted that the United States Supreme Court held in Hurst v. Florida that Florida’s capital sentencing scheme was unconstitutional under the Sixth Amendment because it permitted a judge to increase a defendant’s maximum authorized punishment based on the judge’s own factfinding rather than that of a jury. The Defender Manual has an overview of the development of the Court’s Sixth Amendment jurisprudence on this issue here. Now the Florida Supreme Court has to decide what to do about the nearly 400 inmates awaiting execution who were sentenced under the unconstitutional scheme. The Palm Beach Post reports that former Florida Supreme Court justices were “among a handful of leading lawyers,” including two former American Bar Association presidents, calling for the court to impose life sentences on all of the inmates in a blanket commutation.
Closer to home, the North Carolina Court of Appeals decided that old G.S. 14-27.4A(c) (now codified as G.S. 14-27.28(c)), a statute which “purports to provide the trial court with the unfettered ability to lengthen a defendant’s sentence . . . with no input from a jury,” is unconstitutional based on the same line of Supreme Court cases implicated in Hurst. The case is State v. Singletary, and, as the opinion notes at page 28, Jessie and John have predicted for some time that the North Carolina statute likely was unconstitutional. Keep reading for more news: