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Florida Governor Schedules An Execution After Year And A Half Hiatus

Florida Gov. Rick Scott last May. Monday he approved the state's first execution in 18 months.
Wilfredo Lee

Florida Gov. Rick Scott has scheduled the state's first execution in more than 18 months.

Executions have been on hold in Florida since the U.S. Supreme Court deemed parts of the state's sentencing procedure unconstitutional in January 2016.

That same month, Scott first signed a death warrant for Mark Asay, as member station WFSU reported. Now, "in a letter to the prison warden, Scott is setting Thursday, August 24 for Mark Asay's execution."

Asay was convicted of two murders 30 years ago, the Miami Herald reports.

Florida has one of the largest populations of death row inmates in the country, NPR's Nina Totenberg reported. She explained why the Supreme Court ruled against the state's sentencing system last year:

"Florida law allows juries in capital cases to recommend a sentence of death, or life in prison without parole — but it is the judge who is charged with finding facts, and judges can and do frequently disregard the jury's recommendation. Indeed, since the state death penalty law was enacted in 1972, judges have disregarded the jury's advisory on some 300 occasions, imposing either the harsher penalty of death or the lesser penalty of life.

"In declaring that system unconstitutional, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, writing for the court majority, said that the Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial 'requires a jury and not a judge to find each fact necessary to impose a sentence of death.' A jury's 'mere recommendation is not enough,' she said."

Eight of the nine justices on the bench at the time agreed.

The state's system since then has been engulfed in uncertainty. The legislature has changed the law twice since the Supreme Court ruling, The Associated Press reports, "most recently this year when it required a unanimous jury recommendation for the death penalty."

Now, WFSU reports, "after more than a year of wrangling in the state Legislature and the courts, Scott is picking up where he left off."

Since Scott took office in 2011, the AP reports, 23 people have been executed in Florida.

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Merrit Kennedy is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She covers a broad range of issues, from the latest developments out of the Middle East to science research news.
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