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Executions Put on Hold in Florida

July 09, 2002|From Reuters

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Saying it needs more time to assess the effect of a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Florida's highest court put Florida's death penalty on hold Monday by delaying the executions of two inmates scheduled to die this week.

In a 6-1 ruling, the Florida Supreme Court issued an indefinite postponement of the executions of Linroy Bottoson, 63, and Amos King, 47.

The stay was announced a few hours before Bottoson was scheduled to die by lethal injection. The court majority said it must first address whether the recent ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court outlawing Arizona's death penalty procedure applies to Florida.

The court will hear oral arguments on Aug. 21 and a ruling could take weeks longer. Until the court rules, Florida's death penalty is on the shelf.

Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Ring vs. Arizona that juries, not judges, must decide whether to sentence a defendant to death. Arizona was among a handful of states where trial judges held sole responsibility for imposing a death sentence.

Florida is among four states in which the jury makes a recommendation but the judge imposes the sentence. State officials said recently that the ruling would directly affect 10 cases in which a judge overruled a jury and imposed a death sentence.

Critics, however, said the ruling may have a more widespread effect and could affect the 371 inmates on Florida's death row.

Justice Charles Wells, the court's sole dissenter, said the U.S. Supreme Court already decided the Bottoson case. Four days after issuing its opinion on the Ring case, the nation's high court rejected Bottoson's request for a hearing. By its action, Wells said, the high court had given Florida plenty of direction.

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