• Florida Supreme Court: Death penalty recommendation must be unanimous


    FLORIDA - The Florida Supreme Court decided Friday that a jury must unanimously agree to recommend the death penalty.

    The justices said that a new law allowing non-unanimous recommendations is unconstitutional. The new law allowed a defendant to be sentenced to death as long as 10 out of the 12 jurors recommended it.

    “You are going to see a number of people on death row, if not all of them, asking for a new sentencing hearing,” said WFTV legal analyst Belvin Perry.

    Perry said the decision throws the whole death penalty system into a state of flux..

    In January, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Florida’s previous death penalty law gave too much power to the judge to decide the defendant’s sentence to death.

    As of Friday, there were 385 inmates on Florida's death row.

    Attorneys are waiting on two other decisions from the Florida Supreme Court that could determine if the new guidelines will be applied retroactively to all cases.

    If so, inmates who have been awaiting death for decades could get another chance to get off death row.

    "Defense attorneys now are going through files right now of people who are currently on death row who have been sentenced to die,” Perry said.

    Sanel St. Simon is accused of killing his girlfriend’s daughter. If convicted, he faces the death penalty, but his trial has been pushed back several times after Florida’s death penalty law came under scrunity.

    Bessman Okafor, who was convicted in the Ocoee murder of 19-year-old Alex Zaldivar was sentenced to death in November 2015.

    “It’s an emotional rollercoaster ride,” said Rafael Zaldivar, Alex’s father.

    Perry believes Okafor’s case could get a new sentencing hearing.

    "It's absurd. They worry more about them than they worry about us victims,” Rafael Zaldivar said.

    RELATED STORIES: Changes to Florida's death penalty law

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