U.S. NewsCrime


Florida pushes toward lowering threshold for death sentences

Some leaders want to make it easier to sentence someone to death, while in other states there is a push to change the way people are executed.
Posted at 3:16 PM, Apr 17, 2023

From Florida to Idaho, states are eager to change the death penalty process. It is one of the most significant decisions that can happen in our justice system: Condemning a convicted individual to death.

For years, death penalty convictions, or even sentences, haven't made much news — a result of these convictions being on the decline. 

In fact, 37 states have either abolished the death penalty or have not carried out an execution in at least 10 years, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. 

However, in the states where executions are still occurring, there are new developments taking place. 

Some leaders want to make it easier to sentence someone to death, while in other states there is a push to change the way people are executed.

A man looks over the electric chair in the death chamber at Greensville Correctional Center in Jarratt, Virginia.

The current state of the death penalty in the US

Texas is alone in executions in March, and it's doubling down on its decision to execute two men in the month's second week alone.


Florida threshold change

Nowhere is the debate greater right now than in the state of Florida, where the state legislature just passed a bill lowering the threshold for capital punishment. Gov. Ron DeSantis is expected to sign the bill soon. 

Right now in Florida, the sentencing jury must be unanimous in order to issue the death penalty. The new legislation would get rid of that requirement. The proposal, which passed the state legislature last week, makes an 8-to-4 vote sufficient.

For years, only three states — Missouri, Indiana and Alabama — allow a death sentence when the jury isn't unanimous. In Indiana and Missouri, a judge can decide when a jury is divided; meanwhile, in Alabama, the vote can be 10 to 2.

"I think it's justified," said Max Schachter, who lost his son in the Parkland school shooting.  

The shooter in that 2018 massacre was given a life sentence — and not a death sentence — because the jury could not reach a unanimous decision.

Schachter hopes the debate in Florida sparks a conversation nationwide.

"If the Parkland murderer, who hunted down children and staff and shot them, did not deserve the death penalty, then why do we even have the death penalty?" Schacter said. 

Idaho state capitol building.

Idaho approves veto-proof bill to allow execution by firing squad

According to legislation approved in Idaho, firing squads will be used only if the state cannot obtain the drugs needed for lethal injections.


At the Death Penalty Information Center, a nonprofit research group in Washington, D.C., staffers say what is happening in Florida goes against what has been a national trend of fewer executions.

"This is somewhat of a step backward," Executive Director Richard Dieter said. 

Dieter says the reason so many state governments enacted a unanimous threshold was to eliminate any doubt the person may be innocent.

"But if you ask me what is the one thing, it would be the fact that innocent people had been discovered on death row," Dieter said. 

Scripps News asked him how many people have been sentenced to death and, then, were later freed. He replied saying, "191 people since 1973." 

Florida isn't the only state making news regarding the death penalty process.

Idaho's Republican Gov. Brad Little signed legislation last month making Idaho the fifth state in the country to allow execution by firing squad if lethal injection drugs are unavailable.

Dieter says the push for that method is gaining traction as lethal injection drugs and medical staff become harder to find.

"It makes it hard, even if you have the drugs to do it, because you don't have the personnel who want to do it," Dieter said.