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Florida Supreme Court rules new death penalty law unconstitutional

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The Florida Supreme Court ruled on Friday that the state’s new death penalty law is unconstitutional because it does not require juries to be unanimous in recommending capital punishment.

Executions in Florida, home to the nation’s second-largest death row, have been on hold since the U.S. Supreme Court in January struck down the state’s death penalty sentencing laws.

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The high court’s 8-1 ruling invalidated the process by which a judge sentenced Timothy Hurst to death for the 1998 murder of a fried-chicken restaurant manager. The ruling found that Florida had given judges powers that juries should wield in determining eligibility for execution.

The Florida legislature responded to the ruling this spring by rewriting the state’s death sentencing laws. Legislators passed a law requiring at least 10 of 12 jurors to support capital punishment in murder cases, instead of a simple majority.

But that law “is unconstitutional because it requires that only ten jurors recommend death as opposed to the constitutionally required unanimous, twelve-member jury,” the state’s high court found on Friday.

The court said the law, which required juries to unanimously agree on the facts, or aggravating factors, warranting capital punishment, could not be applied to pending prosecutions.

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In a separate ruling also released on Friday, the Florida Supreme Court ordered Hurst’s death sentence to be vacated and sent his case back to a lower court for a new penalty phase hearing.

The court, however, stopped short of commuting his sentence to life as some advocates had urged.

It was not immediately clear how many cases would be impacted by the decisions.

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(Reporting by Letitia Stein; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

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Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. Like you, we here at Raw Story believe in the power of progressive journalism — and we’re investing in investigative reporting as other publications give it the ax. Raw Story readers power David Cay Johnston’s DCReport, which we've expanded to keep watch in Washington. We’ve exposed billionaire tax evasion and uncovered White House efforts to poison our water. We’ve revealed financial scams that prey on veterans, and efforts to harm workers exploited by abusive bosses. We’ve launched a weekly podcast, “We’ve Got Issues,” focused on issues, not tweets. Unlike other news sites, we’ve decided to make our original content free. But we need your support to do what we do.

Raw Story is independent. You won’t find mainstream media bias here. We’re not part of a conglomerate, or a project of venture capital bros. From unflinching coverage of racism, to revealing efforts to erode our rights, Raw Story will continue to expose hypocrisy and harm. Unhinged from corporate overlords, we fight to ensure no one is forgotten.

We need your support to keep producing quality journalism and deepen our investigative reporting. Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Invest with us in the future. Make a one-time contribution to Raw Story Investigates, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you.



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At least eight prison officials knew Epstein wasn’t supposed to be left alone — but they did it anyway: report

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On Wednesday, the Washington Post reported that at least eight staffers at the Bureau of Prisons were aware that arrested hedge fund manager Jeffrey Epstein could be a risk to himself if left unsupervised — raising further questions about why exactly guards left him to his own devices on the night that he allegedly hanged himself.

Investigators reportedly believe that at least some of these officials were aware that he had been left alone. It is unclear why nobody intervened, and the Justice Department is continuing with its investigation. Attorney General William Barr recently ordered the removal of the acting director of the Bureau of Prisons.

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Russian disqualified from Tango competition for punching his partner

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A Russian participant in the World Tango Championships in Buenos Aires has been disqualified for violence towards his partner, the organizers said Wednesday.

The incident happened after the duo, a husband and wife, took part in the semi-final of the competition on Tuesday in the Argentine capital.

Organizers condemned the assault plus "assisted the victim and made the decision to disqualify the dancer," said a source with the Championships who declined to be named.

Officials did not name the couple in order "to preserve the identity of the victim who declined to file a complaint."

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‘His mommy should have told him she loved him a little bit more’: CNN analyst eviscerates Trump over ‘chosen one’ comments’

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On Wednesday's edition of CNN's "The Situation Room," analyst Gloria Borger laid into President Donald Trump for his bizarre press conference anointing himself "the chosen one."

"'I am the chosen one,' and that comes after the president re-tweeted a conspiracy theorist radio host who said that he is like the second coming," said host Brianna Keilar. "So what do you make of all of this?"

"I think maybe his mommy should have told him she loved him a little bit more," said Borger. "I don't know. It is hard — it is hard to know what to make of this. Some people will say, as Trump says, 'Oh, I was only joking when I said all of that stuff.' But the truth of the matter is that he does this all of the time, and talks about how wonderful he is, and if you recall during his speech at the convention when he talked about the problems the country was facing he was saying 'I alone can fix it.'"

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