The political-advocacy arm of the Catholic Church in Florida has joined other policy groups to request politicians keep the unanimous consent of a jury as a requirement to sentence a convicted murderer to death. Bishop William Wack of the Catholic Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee, which includes Niceville and Valparaiso, is a member of the network.
Florida lawmakers will consider the twin house and senate bills, which would require a ⅔ majority of jurors to enact the death penalty in a capital murder case. The bills were introduced by Senator Blaise Ingoglia, a Republican of Spring Hill and Representative Berny Jacques, a Republican of Seminole.
In 2017, the Florida Legislature changed the rule to require a unanimous jury – a win for the Catholic Bishops, whose teachings forbid using the death penalty.
Florida has the country’s second most populous death row and has had the highest number of death row exonerees in the United States, with 30 exonerations.
“Retaining the unanimity requirement would ensure a fair trial and a just decision, as unanimity is already required in every other circumstance when a jury is summoned in Florida,” noted a release from the Florida Catholic Advocacy Network.
Alabama is the only state that does not require unanimity for using the death penalty.
House Bill 555 is currently in its last committee of reference, while Senate Bill 450 is set for its last committee hearing, the Senate Rules Committee, on March 22 at 8:30 a.m. It passed its subcommittee hearings. Niceville’s Representative, Patt Maney serves on the Judicial Committee and will have a vote on the bills further movement toward law before it goes to the floor of the Florida House of Representatives for a vote.
In addition to their opposition of the death penalty, or making it easier to use the death penalty in Florida, the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops has announced they’ll fight for the following policies in the 2023 legislative session
You can read the full list of their public policy prerogatives here.
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