14 October 2019

International Cases

Hurst v. Florida


United States of America



Florida’s sentencing scheme given the chop

The United States Supreme Court overwhelmingly held Florida’s sentencing scheme unconstitutional under the Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution. In the instant case, after Mr. Hurst was found guilty of murder in the first-degree, an additional sentencing proceeding was conducted in order to enhance the maximum sentence that could be imposed under State law. Such “hybrid” proceeding entailed the jury delivering an advisory verdict as to sentence, with judge conducting evidentiary hearing before the jury; having weighed the aggravating and mitigating circumstance would the judge enter sentence. Whereas the Sixth Amendment guarantees a defendant’s right to an impartial jury trial, the Court found that under Florida’s sentencing procedure judge alone had discretion to determine the existence of an aggravating circumstance affecting sentence. Justice Alito, however, dissented. He opined that error in sentencing in the instant case was harmless beyond reasonable doubt. Though the judge could alter the sentence recommended by the jury, his role practically amounted to a reviewing function.

Tags : Usa florida sentencing sixth amendment

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