TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA — If a new bill is made into law, Florida will surpass Alabama as the toughest death penalty state. After Monday’s victory in the Criminal Justice Committee, Senator Blaise Ingoglia’s (R-Spring Hill) legislation is one stride closer to securing that title.
SB 450 would allow a judge to sentence the death penalty if at least 8 jurors recommend it, eclipsing Alabama’s current requirement of 10 jurors. This legislation follows the outrage over Nikolas Cruz’s sentence to life-in-prison over capital punishment.
Tony Maltano – father of Parkland victim Gina Maltano, and Ryan Petty – father of Parkland victim Alaina Petty – appeared in support of SB 450, offering powerful testimony:
“Our current law allowed a single activist juror to hold up the system – to stop debate on what should have happened to a convicted mass murderer”, Maltano stated, referencing the one juror who remained a hard-no to a death sentence.
“Do not allow one juror to hijack justice.” Petty echoed.
While SB 450 passed the committee with bipartisan support, there were still dissenters. Senator Tina Polsky (D-Boca Raton) clarified:
“[Wrongful convictions] could happen with this new bill. We could have a wrong verdict,” she stated. “And I do agree that [the Cruz case] was when the death penalty should have been found. But I don’t agree that this bill – that is not ready – is the answer, and I just need you to know that in my heart, that is why I have to vote against this bill.”
Ingoglia responded, explaining that he has strong faith in “our law enforcement and DNA technology” to help mitigate wrongful capital convictions, and:
“If somebody like Nikolas Cruz does not meet the benchmark for the death penalty, then what do we have the death penalty for?”