In Florida, it seems that they are barrelling down the road to a single-juror veto law, and nobody is even raising the alternative of a true unanimity law. Why the state's prosecutors are not up in arms about this just baffles me.
Seriously, folks, do you really want a system where a hard-core opponent of the death penalty can lie on Witherspoon-Witt voir dire to get on the jury, cross his arms in deliberation and just say "no, no, no, no matter what," and impose his will over the judgment of the other 11 jurors? That is what you will get if this train isn't stopped.
Require unanimity one way or the other or at least a majority for a life verdict, and otherwise declare a mistrial and retry the penalty phase with a new jury.
The Alabama Senate voted 30-1 to end judicial overrides of jury penalty verdicts in capital cases. Brian Lyman has this story for the Montgomery Advertiser. SB16 provides that it is not retroactive. It deletes the word "advisory" before "verdict" and requires the judge to sentence according to the verdict
Existing law says that a jury can return a death verdict by a vote of 10 jurors or a life imprisonment verdict by a majority vote. If neither of those thresholds is met (i.e., between 6-6 and 9-3), "the trial court may declare a mistrial of the sentence hearing." That's fine except for the "may." Could a judge allow a minority of jurors to prevail over the majority by declining to declare a mistrial? Perhaps readers familiar with how things actually work in Alabama can enlighten us.