Florida increased and expanded its use of the death penalty in 2023 and is one of five states that regularly impose capital punishment, the South Florida Sun Sentinel reports. The state’s moves to resume executions after three years, to lower the bar for juries to recommend death sentences and to expand the crimes eligible for death put Florida at the forefront of the issue nationally. A recent report from the Death Penalty Information Center said Florida was responsible for a nationwide increase in the number of executions carried out this year. The state executed six people in 2023, second only to Texas, which had eight. Florida’s six executions and Texas’ eight accounted for more than half the nation’s 24 total executions this year, six more than last year’s 18. Florida’s six executions were the most in a year since 2014.
Florida instituted a unanimous jury requirement in 2017 based on the ruling of the state Supreme Court. But the court, which became more conservative after DeSantis appointed new justices, later reversed course. So, in the spring, lawmakers and Gov. Ron DeSantis changed state laws, so juries don’t have to be unanimous to recommend the death penalty. The new minimum is a vote of 8-4 for death. Florida lawmakers also passed a bill making child sex abuse offenders subject to the death penalty, a change that contradicts U.S. and Florida Supreme Court precedent. Prosecutors in Florida’s 5th Judicial Circuit this month filed the first such charges, and DeSantis has said they have his “full support.”