Jackson v. Florida

Brief of Amici Curiae Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the Florida Public Defender Association, Advancing Real Change, Inc., Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty, Craig Trocino, Esq., Death Penalty Focus, Florida Justice Institute, Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Ripley Whisenhunt, PLLC, Witness to Innocence, and the 8th Amendment Project

Brief filed: 05/23/2024


Jackson v. Florida

Supreme Court of Florida; Case No. 2023-1298


In 2023, Florida amended its capital sentencing scheme to lower the standard for imposing a death sentence. § 921.141, Fla. Stat. (2023) (the “8-4 Statute”). With the 8-4 Statute, Florida has the lowest standard for imposing a sentence of death in the nation.This Court must decide whether trial courts can apply the 8-4 Statute in cases like Mr. Jackson’s—i.e., cases where a Hurst resentencing proceeding was pending when the 8-4 Statute went into effect (April 20, 2023, the “Effective Date”). This issue affects over 40 of the 145 people who were granted Hurst relief.

Data on the Hurst resentencing proceedings show that whether a capital defendant was resentenced under Florida’s post-Hurst unanimity statute or the 8-4 Statute is the quintessential game of chance. As of March 31, 2024, only 17 (17.3%) of the 98 completed Hurst resentencing proceedings (under both the unanimity and 8-4 standards) resulted in a resentence of death. Only one case as of March 31, 2024, resulted in a resentence of death under the 8-4 Statute—Mr. Jackson’s.

Capital punishment, where the difference is life or death, is the one place where such arbitrariness cannot be tolerated. The imposition of death under the 8-4 Statute in cases like Mr. Jackson’s violates capital defendants’ constitutional rights against the arbitrary infliction of the death penalty and right to equal protection. Thus, this Court should hold that the 8-4 Statute cannot apply to Hurst resentencing proceedings and, instead, the trial courts must apply Florida’s post-Hurst unanimity statute, which was in place when this Court granted prisoners like Mr. Jackson Hurst relief.


Melanie C. Kalmanson, Quarles & Brady LLP, Tampa, FL

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