Required Conditions for a Death Sentence In Florida

In Ring v. Arizona, 536 U.S. 584, 122 S. Ct. 2428, 153 L. Ed. 2d 556 (2002), the United States Supreme Court held that in capital sentencing schemes in which aggravating factors operate as the functional equivalent of elements of a greater offense, the Sixth Amendment requires that each aggravator must be found by a jury. Under Florida law, in order to return an advisory sentence in favor of death a majority of the jury must find beyond a reasonable doubt the existence of at least one aggravating circumstance listed in the capital sentencing statute. See State v. Steele, 921 So. 2d 538, 540 (Fla. 2005) (citing 921.141(2)(a), Fla. Stat. (2004)). The jury must also find that any aggravating circumstances outweigh any mitigating circumstances. See id. (citing 921.141(2)(b), Fla. Stat. (2004)). While the jury's advisory sentence need not be unanimous, a majority vote is necessary for a death recommendation. See id. at 545 (citing Fla. Std. Jury Instr. (Crim.) 7.11, at 132-33).