2020 Florida Statutes
Sentence of death or life imprisonment for capital felonies; further proceedings to determine sentence.
Sentence of death or life imprisonment for capital felonies; further proceedings to determine sentence.
921.141 Sentence of death or life imprisonment for capital felonies; further proceedings to determine sentence.—
(1) SEPARATE PROCEEDINGS ON ISSUE OF PENALTY.—Upon conviction or adjudication of guilt of a defendant of a capital felony, the court shall conduct a separate sentencing proceeding to determine whether the defendant should be sentenced to death or life imprisonment as authorized by s. 775.082. The proceeding shall be conducted by the trial judge before the trial jury as soon as practicable. If, through impossibility or inability, the trial jury is unable to reconvene for a hearing on the issue of penalty, having determined the guilt of the accused, the trial judge may summon a special juror or jurors as provided in chapter 913 to determine the issue of the imposition of the penalty. If the trial jury has been waived, or if the defendant pleaded guilty, the sentencing proceeding shall be conducted before a jury impaneled for that purpose, unless waived by the defendant. In the proceeding, evidence may be presented as to any matter that the court deems relevant to the nature of the crime and the character of the defendant and shall include matters relating to any of the aggravating factors enumerated in subsection (6) and for which notice has been provided pursuant to s. 782.04(1)(b) or mitigating circumstances enumerated in subsection (7). Any such evidence that the court deems to have probative value may be received, regardless of its admissibility under the exclusionary rules of evidence, provided the defendant is accorded a fair opportunity to rebut any hearsay statements. However, this subsection shall not be construed to authorize the introduction of any evidence secured in violation of the Constitution of the United States or the Constitution of the State of Florida. The state and the defendant or the defendant’s counsel shall be permitted to present argument for or against sentence of death.
(2) FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDED SENTENCE BY THE JURY.—This subsection applies only if the defendant has not waived his or her right to a sentencing proceeding by a jury.
(a) After hearing all of the evidence presented regarding aggravating factors and mitigating circumstances, the jury shall deliberate and determine if the state has proven, beyond a reasonable doubt, the existence of at least one aggravating factor set forth in subsection (6).
(b) The jury shall return findings identifying each aggravating factor found to exist. A finding that an aggravating factor exists must be unanimous. If the jury:
1. Does not unanimously find at least one aggravating factor, the defendant is ineligible for a sentence of death.
2. Unanimously finds at least one aggravating factor, the defendant is eligible for a sentence of death and the jury shall make a recommendation to the court as to whether the defendant shall be sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole or to death. The recommendation shall be based on a weighing of all of the following:
a. Whether sufficient aggravating factors exist.
b. Whether aggravating factors exist which outweigh the mitigating circumstances found to exist.
c. Based on the considerations in sub-subparagraphs a. and b., whether the defendant should be sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole or to death.
(c) If a unanimous jury determines that the defendant should be sentenced to death, the jury’s recommendation to the court shall be a sentence of death. If a unanimous jury does not determine that the defendant should be sentenced to death, the jury’s recommendation to the court shall be a sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.
(3) IMPOSITION OF SENTENCE OF LIFE IMPRISONMENT OR DEATH.—
(a) If the jury has recommended a sentence of:
1. Life imprisonment without the possibility of parole, the court shall impose the recommended sentence.
2. Death, the court, after considering each aggravating factor found by the jury and all mitigating circumstances, may impose a sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole or a sentence of death. The court may consider only an aggravating factor that was unanimously found to exist by the jury.
(b) If the defendant waived his or her right to a sentencing proceeding by a jury, the court, after considering all aggravating factors and mitigating circumstances, may impose a sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole or a sentence of death. The court may impose a sentence of death only if the court finds that at least one aggravating factor has been proven to exist beyond a reasonable doubt.
(4) ORDER OF THE COURT IN SUPPORT OF SENTENCE OF DEATH.—In each case in which the court imposes a sentence of death, the court shall, considering the records of the trial and the sentencing proceedings, enter a written order addressing the aggravating factors set forth in subsection (6) found to exist, the mitigating circumstances in subsection (7) reasonably established by the evidence, whether there are sufficient aggravating factors to warrant the death penalty, and whether the aggravating factors outweigh the mitigating circumstances reasonably established by the evidence. If the court does not issue its order requiring the death sentence within 30 days after the rendition of the judgment and sentence, the court shall impose a sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole in accordance with s. 775.082.
(5) REVIEW OF JUDGMENT AND SENTENCE.—The judgment of conviction and sentence of death shall be subject to automatic review by the Supreme Court of Florida and disposition rendered within 2 years after the filing of a notice of appeal. Such review by the Supreme Court shall have priority over all other cases and shall be heard in accordance with rules adopted by the Supreme Court.
(6) AGGRAVATING FACTORS.—Aggravating factors shall be limited to the following:
(a) The capital felony was committed by a person previously convicted of a felony and under sentence of imprisonment or placed on community control or on felony probation.
(b) The defendant was previously convicted of another capital felony or of a felony involving the use or threat of violence to the person.
(c) The defendant knowingly created a great risk of death to many persons.
(d) The capital felony was committed while the defendant was engaged, or was an accomplice, in the commission of, or an attempt to commit, or flight after committing or attempting to commit, any: robbery; sexual battery; aggravated child abuse; abuse of an elderly person or disabled adult resulting in great bodily harm, permanent disability, or permanent disfigurement; arson; burglary; kidnapping; aircraft piracy; or unlawful throwing, placing, or discharging of a destructive device or bomb.
(e) The capital felony was committed for the purpose of avoiding or preventing a lawful arrest or effecting an escape from custody.
(f) The capital felony was committed for pecuniary gain.
(g) The capital felony was committed to disrupt or hinder the lawful exercise of any governmental function or the enforcement of laws.
(h) The capital felony was especially heinous, atrocious, or cruel.
(i) The capital felony was a homicide and was committed in a cold, calculated, and premeditated manner without any pretense of moral or legal justification.
(j) The victim of the capital felony was a law enforcement officer engaged in the performance of his or her official duties.
(k) The victim of the capital felony was an elected or appointed public official engaged in the performance of his or her official duties if the motive for the capital felony was related, in whole or in part, to the victim’s official capacity.
(l) The victim of the capital felony was a person less than 12 years of age.
(m) The victim of the capital felony was particularly vulnerable due to advanced age or disability, or because the defendant stood in a position of familial or custodial authority over the victim.
(n) The capital felony was committed by a criminal gang member, as defined in s. 874.03.
(o) The capital felony was committed by a person designated as a sexual predator pursuant to s. 775.21 or a person previously designated as a sexual predator who had the sexual predator designation removed.
(p) The capital felony was committed by a person subject to an injunction issued pursuant to s. 741.30 or s. 784.046, or a foreign protection order accorded full faith and credit pursuant to s. 741.315, and was committed against the petitioner who obtained the injunction or protection order or any spouse, child, sibling, or parent of the petitioner.
(7) MITIGATING CIRCUMSTANCES.—Mitigating circumstances shall be the following:
(a) The defendant has no significant history of prior criminal activity.
(b) The capital felony was committed while the defendant was under the influence of extreme mental or emotional disturbance.
(c) The victim was a participant in the defendant’s conduct or consented to the act.
(d) The defendant was an accomplice in the capital felony committed by another person and his or her participation was relatively minor.
(e) The defendant acted under extreme duress or under the substantial domination of another person.
(f) The capacity of the defendant to appreciate the criminality of his or her conduct or to conform his or her conduct to the requirements of law was substantially impaired.
(g) The age of the defendant at the time of the crime.
(h) The existence of any other factors in the defendant’s background that would mitigate against imposition of the death penalty.
(8) VICTIM IMPACT EVIDENCE.—Once the prosecution has provided evidence of the existence of one or more aggravating factors as described in subsection (6), the prosecution may introduce, and subsequently argue, victim impact evidence to the jury. Such evidence shall be designed to demonstrate the victim’s uniqueness as an individual human being and the resultant loss to the community’s members by the victim’s death. Characterizations and opinions about the crime, the defendant, and the appropriate sentence shall not be permitted as a part of victim impact evidence.
(9) APPLICABILITY.—This section does not apply to a person convicted or adjudicated guilty of a capital drug trafficking felony under s. 893.135.
History.—s. 237a, ch. 19554, 1939; CGL 1940 Supp. 8663(246); s. 119, ch. 70-339; s. 1, ch. 72-72; s. 9, ch. 72-724; s. 1, ch. 74-379; s. 248, ch. 77-104; s. 1, ch. 77-174; s. 1, ch. 79-353; s. 177, ch. 83-216; s. 1, ch. 87-368; s. 10, ch. 88-381; s. 3, ch. 90-112; s. 1, ch. 91-270; s. 1, ch. 92-81; s. 1, ch. 95-159; s. 5, ch. 96-290; s. 1, ch. 96-302; s. 7, ch. 2005-28; s. 2, ch. 2005-64; s. 27, ch. 2008-238; s. 25, ch. 2010-117; s. 1, ch. 2010-120; s. 3, ch. 2016-13; s. 49, ch. 2016-24; s. 1, ch. 2017-1; s. 129, ch. 2019-167.
Note.—Former s. 919.23.