The Christian Science Monitor

How quickly should courts change the law? Florida tests the limit.

When the Florida Supreme Court ruled late last month that a unanimous jury is not required for the state to hand down a death sentence, the decision reverberated in the state prisons that house hundreds of felons already sentenced to death.

The legal wrangling over their fate overnight became “chaos,” says Marty McClain, a death-penalty lawyer.

After all, only four years earlier, Florida had struck down the power of judges, not juries, to decide whether or not to execute convicted felons. That ruling followed a landmark U.S. Supreme Court finding that Florida’s system for capital sentencing was unconstitutional and led nearly 100 inmates on death row there to challenge their sentences.

But a new conservative majority on Florida’s highest court has begun taking a shredder to

Life and deathHistory’s scrapyardChallenging judicial consensus

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