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NAACP Statement on Supreme Court Decision in Florida Death Penalty Case

BALTIMORE, MD – The NAACP released the following statement following the U.S. Supreme Court’s 8-1 decision in Hurst v. Florida. The Court ruled that Florida’s sentencing scheme violates the Sixth Amendment of the Constitution.

Prior to the ruling, a Florida jury would make an advisory opinion regarding the application of the death penalty and then the trial judge would determine--after alone weighing aggravating and mitigating factors--whether the death penalty should be applied. The Court determined that scheme failed to comply with the Court’s prior decisions holding that a jury must determine, beyond a reasonable doubt, all facts required to be found before a sentence of death may be imposed.

From Cornell William Brooks, NAACP President and CEO:

“While we applaud the Supreme Court’s decision, which reaffirms that an impartial jury has the responsibility to make all factual findings necessary in cases serious enough to impose the death penalty, the NAACP remains unequivocally against capital punishment - it is racially biased and inhumane. Over the past several years, we have worked hard to abolish the death penalty in Maryland and we seek to continue this trend across the country. In states where it has yet to be abolished, a sentence of death must adhere to the Constitutional requirements set out by the U.S. Supreme Court.

“In Florida alone, 12 people have been cleared from death row through DNA evidence in recent years and 400 people remain on death row in that state. Nearly all of those exonerated in Florida and across the nation have been black, brown, and or desperately poor. While many continue to debate the abolishment of the death penalty, it is undeniable that life and death mistakes of the justice system are almost always made at the expense of the lives of people of color and those without access to vigorous representation. The NAACP will continue to advocate for the abolition of a law that is biased, flawed and violates our Constitutional right against cruel and unusual punishment.”

From Adora Obi Nweze, President, Florida State Conference and National Board Member:

“The Supreme Court’s decision in Hurst v. Florida is a step in the right direction, with the ultimate resolution being the abolishment of the death penalty in Florida. As a board member of the Florida Innocence Project, we know that people of color are disproportionately sentenced to death row in Florida and across the country. Since 1973, 26 former death row inmates have been exonerated – those are 26 lives saved from a from a broken criminal justice system. It is unconscionable that we continue to employ capital punishment as a means of punishment when we know it is ineffective, flawed and makes no exceptions for fallibility.”


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