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Hurst v. Florida

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Hurst v. Florida
Seal of the United States Supreme Court
Argued October 13, 2015
Decided January 12, 2016
Full case nameTimothy Lee Hurst, Petitioner v. Florida
Docket no.14-7505
Citations577 U.S. ___ (more)
136 S. Ct. 616; 193 L. Ed. 2d 504
Opinion announcementOpinion announcement
Case history
PriorHurst v. State, 147 So. 3d 435 (Fla. 2014); cert. granted, 135 S. Ct. 1531 (2015).
Florida's capital sentencing scheme violates the Sixth Amendment in light of Ring v. Arizona.
Court membership
Chief Justice
John Roberts
Associate Justices
Antonin Scalia · Anthony Kennedy
Clarence Thomas · Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Stephen Breyer · Samuel Alito
Sonia Sotomayor · Elena Kagan
Case opinions
MajoritySotomayor, joined by Roberts, Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas, Ginsburg, Kagan
Laws applied
U.S. Const. amend. VI

Hurst v. Florida, 577 U.S. ___ (2016), was a United States Supreme Court case in which the Court, in an 8-1 ruling, applied the rule of Ring v. Arizona[1] to the Florida capital sentencing scheme, holding that the Sixth Amendment requires a jury to find the aggravating factors necessary for imposing the death penalty. In Florida, under a 2013 statute, the jury made recommendations but the judge decided the facts.

YouTube Encyclopedic

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  • ✪ Why the Sun Belt Keeps Growing


This video is about why Americans are moving to the Sun Belt in huge numbers and why this has been the case since right after World War II. I am making this alongside Grant Hurst, who has a video about why Americans have been leaving the Rust Belt in huge numbers. Where do you think most of them are ending up? That’s right, you bloody genius. In the Sun Belt. Extra credit for you. But be sure to check out Grant’s video after watching this one, and while you’re over there, you had best subscribe to his terrific channel. So anyway, yeah, Americans are moving South. In huge numbers. Between July 2015 and July 2016, Harris County in Texas, where Houston is located, grew an average of 155 people per day. Maricopa County in Arizona, where Phoenix is located, grew an average of 223 people per day during that same time period. 11 of the 15 fastest growing major cities in the United States are in the region known as the Sun Belt. The Sun Belt generally stretches across the entire Southern portion of the United States, including the states of Florida, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, and California. It’s definitely an arbitrary definition. Some geographers label the Sun Belt any part of the United States south of the 36th parallel. With that definition, you would add the states of Oklahoma, Tennessee, and North Carolina to the region, and the map would look like this. The Sun Belt is currently known for it’s mild winters, the tourism associated with those mild winters, growing economic opportunities, and its, uh, SUN. As in it’s always sunny. It’s not always sunny in Philadelphia. It’s always sunny in Phoenix. Political analyst Kevin Phillips first popularized the term “Sun Belt” in 1969 in his book The Emerging Republican Majority, and the term continues to stick around. However, as I said before, Americans had been flocking to the South since right after World War II. But why, Mr.Beat? WHY?!? First, let’s just get the obvious reason out the way. Many Americans, especially retiring Americans, just wanted to settle down in a warmer climate. Winters in the Midwest and Northeast can be brutal. So why did they wait until after World War II? Well, this was around the time home air conditioning units became affordable. Sure, winters in the South can be heaven, but the summers can also be relentless, but after air conditioners became widespread, it was much easier to deal with those 115 degree afternoons in Arizona. So retirees were flocking down there, but what about those looking for work? After World War II, there seemed to be plenty of jobs waiting for Americans down in the South. The federal government spent most of its Cold War money on the defense and aerospace industries of the South, where everything was cheaper compared to the North. Workers could even be paid less, in part due to there being less labor unions in the South. The Sun Belt also received much more money than the north from the federal government in terms of military and aerospace spending. Oil boomed in Texas. Tourism obviously boomed pretty much everywhere in the Sun Belt. The creation of the interstate highway system in the 1950s opened up once isolated southern regions to the rest of the country. Southern governments offered incentives for businesses to move there. Part of the region’s economic growth came from introducing new farming technologies in arid areas. Speaking of arid, yeah, much of the Sun Belt is pretty dry. "Not as dry as you, Mr. Beat." Alright, quiet you. Irrigation from redirecting water can only last for so long, so this remains a serious challenge in the future for the American Southwest in particular. Oh, and I forgot to mention, the cost of living was much cheaper in many areas of the Sun Belt. By the 1970s, the Sun Belt was growing at a ridiculously high rate. In that decade alone, Phoenix grew by 55 percent. And while there have been the occasional, temporary setbacks ever since, this trend has not slowed down. Today, the Sun Belt states are where most of the growth occurs. In 2020, expect those states to be gaining electoral votes. In 1970, Phoenix was the 20th largest city in the country. Today, it’s the fifth. Impressive, Phoenix. But while the Sun Belt states keep growing, 8 states actually lost population between 2015 and 2016. Most of these states are part of the Rust Belt, a region of the country from the Great Lakes to the upper Midwest associated with declining industry. To find out why so many Americans continue to flee the Rust Belt, check out Grant Hurst’s video on the topic. And again, please subscribe to his tubular channel while you are over there. Thanks for watching, thanks to my Patreon supporters you see here, and next week there will be the glorious return of Supreme Court Briefs.



Timothy Hurst was charged with killing Cynthia Harrison, a co-worker at Popeye's Chicken. The 1998 murder was part of a botched robbery at the Escambia County restaurant. Under Florida law, the maximum sentence a capital felon may receive on the basis of a conviction alone is life imprisonment. He may be sentenced to death only if an additional sentencing proceeding "results in findings by the court that such person shall be punished by death" Fla. Stat. §775.082(1). In that proceeding, the sentencing judge first conducts an evidentiary hearing before a jury §921.141(1). Next, the jury, by majority vote, renders an "advisory sentence" §921.141(2). The court must still independently find and weigh the aggravating and mitigating circumstances before entering a sentence of life or death §921.141(3). This procedure was adopted from 2013 when Governor Rick Scott signed the Timely Justice Act (HB 7101)[2] which overhauled the processes for capital punishment.[3]

A Florida jury convicted petitioner Hurst of first-degree murder. The jury recommended the death penalty, and the court sentenced Hurst to death, but he was granted a new sentencing hearing on appeal. At resentencing, the jury again recommended death, and the judge again found the facts necessary to sentence Hurst to death. The Florida Supreme Court affirmed, rejecting Hurst’s argument that his sentence violated the Sixth Amendment in light of Ring v. Arizona 536 U. S. 584, in which case the Court found unconstitutional an Arizona capital sentencing policy permitting a judge, rather than the jury, to find the facts necessary to sentence a defendant to death.


Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote the majority opinion of the Court. Florida's capital sentencing scheme, requiring that a judge instead of a jury to make the critical findings necessary to impose the death penalty, violated the Sixth Amendment in light of Ring v. Arizona.[1] The Court also rejected Florida's counterarguments. Firstly, Florida argued that the jury's recommendation necessarily included an aggravating circumstance finding but still violated Ring because the jury's function was still advisory only. Secondly, Florida's reliance on Blakely v. Washington[4] is misplaced: Florida alleges that Hurst's counsel allegedly admitted the existence of a robbery, but Blakely applied Apprendi v. New Jersey[5] to facts admitted in a guilty plea, in which the defendant necessarily waived his right to a jury trial, but Florida had not explained how Hurst's alleged admissions accomplished a similar waiver. In any event, Hurst never admitted to either aggravating circumstance alleged. Thirdly, although the Court had repeatedly upheld Florida's capital sentencing scheme in the past (such as Hildwin v. Florida and Spaziano v. Florida[6]), it did not mean that stare decisis compelled the Court to do so again. Instead, time and subsequent cases had "washed away" the logic of Spaziano and Hildwin. Finally, the Court normally leaves it to state courts to consider whether an error is harmless.

Justice Stephen Breyer wrote a concurring opinion stating that he cannot join the majority's opinion because of the reasons he explained in his concurring opinion in Ring (since he did not fully agree with the majority opinion in Ring, he could not support the majority's rationale here in Hurst). However, he agreed with striking Florida's scheme, referring back to his concurring opinion in Spaziano, among others, that he believes that any imposition of the death penalty by a single government official instead of a jury violates the Eighth Amendment.

Justice Samuel Alito dissented. He disagreed with the majority on basically overruling Hildwin and Spaziano. Instead, he would have preferred for the Court to reconsider Ring directly. He also wrote that Arizona's sentencing scheme is much different than Florida's because under the former, a jury plays no role in the process. However, in Florida, "the jury plays a critically important role. Our decision in Ring did not decide whether this procedure violates the Sixth Amendment, and I would not extend Ring to cover the Florida system."


Florida has about 400 inmates on death row, the most of any state except California. It is unclear how many may receive new re-sentencing hearings as a result of this decision. As of late January 2016, about 40 inmates have appeals pending.[7]

The Florida legislature needs to revise its death penalty law to address the Court's concerns about ensuring that the jury determines what aggravating facts are to be considered in a capital case for which the death penalty might be chosen.[8]

The Florida legislature passed a new statute to comply with the judgement in March 2016, changing the sentencing method to require a 10-juror supermajority for a sentence of death with a life sentence as the alternative.[9]

This new sentencing scheme was struck down by the Florida Supreme Court in a 5-2 ruling in October 2016. The court held that a death sentence must be issued by a unanimous jury.[10] The court ruled that the law "cannot be applied to pending prosecutions" which means that until the Florida legislature acts, there is no procedure or law allowing a prosecutor to seek the death penalty; it leaves open, however, as in the aftermath of the Hurst ruling, the status of sentences passed under the now twice-struck-down provisions. Nevertheless, the court granted Hurst a new sentencing hearing following the U.S. Supreme Court ruling.[11]

The US Supreme Court had received over 83 petitions from inmates on death row in Florida who believed that their cases had been decided incorrectly based on Hurst, in that the jury had unanimously recommended the death sentence while the judge had made the actual decision; these petitions followed after the Florida Supreme Court refused to re-hear these cases, on the basis that in all cases, there was beyond reasonable doubt that the juries would have decided on the death sentence. In November 2018, the US Supreme Court denied all these petitions, ruling broadly the Hurst decision only affects those whose sentences were applied post-2002, following the court's decision in Ring v. Arizona, were eligible for the Hurst clarification.[12]

See also


  1. ^ a b Ring v. Arizona, 536 U.S. 584 (2002).
  2. ^ "HB 7101". Florida State Senate. Retrieved March 15, 2016.
  3. ^ Klas, Mary Ellen (June 14, 2016). "Gov. Rick Scott signs bill to speed up executions in Florida". Miami Herald. Retrieved October 15, 2016.
  4. ^ Blakely v. Washington, 542 U.S. 296 (2004).
  5. ^ Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466 (2000).
  6. ^ Spaziano v. Florida, 468 U.S. 447 (1984).
  7. ^ Alvarez, Lizette (February 2, 2016). "Supreme Court Ruling Has Florida Scrambling to Fix Death Penalty Law". The New York Times. Retrieved February 3, 2016.
  8. ^ Liptak, Adam (January 12, 2016). "Supreme Court Strikes Down Part of Florida Death Penalty". The New York Times. Retrieved February 3, 2016.
  9. ^ Berman, Mark (March 7, 2016). "Florida death penalty officially revamped after Supreme Court struck it down". Washington Post. Retrieved August 3, 2016.
  10. ^ Klas, Mary Ellen; Ovalle, David (October 14, 2016). "Court again tosses state death penalty; ruling raises bar on capital punishment". Miami Herald. Retrieved October 15, 2016.
  11. ^ Farias, Cristian (October 25, 2016). "Florida's Death Penalty Law Is Ruled Unconstitutional – Again". Huffington Post. Retrieved October 15, 2016.
  12. ^ Howe, Amy (November 13, 2018). "Court adds two new cases to merits docket". SCOTUSblog. Retrieved November 13, 2018.

External links

This page was last edited on 17 June 2019, at 18:29
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