This month, the American Bar Association (ABA) passed without any dissenting delegate votes not one but two resolutions that impact how capital punishment is sentenced and carried out in the United States, particularly Florida.
Image: State of Florida Execution Chamber No. 3
1. ABA: Florida Should Require 100% Unanimous Jury for Death Penalty
The first resolution, Resolution 108a, calls for there to be 100% agreement for a death penalty sentence before a jury can approve capital punishment in a case.
Right now, unanimous juries in capital sentencing may be assumed to be true by lots of people, but there are several states — including Florida — where it’s not required under state law for there to be unanimity before the sentence of death.
RESOLVED, That the American Bar Association urges all federal, state, and territorial governments, that impose capital punishment, and the military, to require that:
(1) Before a court can impose a sentence of death, a jury must unanimously recommend or vote to impose that sentence; and
(2) The jury in such cases must also unanimously agree on the existence of any fact that is a prerequisite for eligibility for the death penalty and on the specific aggravating factors that have each been proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
2. ABA: Florida Should Be Transparent Regarding Lethal Injection Execution Methods
The second resolution passed by the ABA askes for greater transparency in executions, specifically the procedures for lethal injections. As those who follow the issue of capital punishment, or those who read this blog regularly, are too well aware, the past few years have seen a change in how available certain drugs have become for use by state executioners.
As the scarcity of these chemicals grew, states were forced to make changes in their execution methods, specifically what drugs they used in their lethal injection procedures. As challenges arose regarding the changes they were making, there was growing secrecy surrounding the various execution methods, officially approved by the powers-that-be.
RESOLVED, That the American Bar Association urges federal, state, and territorial legislative bodies and governmental agencies, including departments of corrections, and the military that impose or implement capital punishment, to:
(1) promulgate execution protocols in an open and transparent manner and allow public comment prior to final adoption; and,
(2) require disclosure to the public, to condemned prisoners facing execution, and to courts all relevant information regarding execution procedures, including but not limited to:
a. the steps to be followed in preparation for, during, and after an execution,
b. the qualifications and background of execution team members, and
c. details about any drugs to be used, including the names, manufacturers or
suppliers, doses, expiration date(s), and testing results concerning use of the
(3) require that an execution process, including the process of setting IVs, be viewable by media and other witnesses from the moment the condemned prisoner enters the execution chamber until the prisoner is declared dead or the execution is called off;
(4) create and maintain contemporaneous records of what transpires during the execution, including but not limited to the drugs administered, the timing of administration, and any complications, errors or unanticipated events;
(5) disclose the entirety of records and logs on the execution process upon order of the court or as otherwise required in discovery or by law upon request of a death-sentenced prisoner, the prisoner’s counsel, or successors; and,
(6) provide an immediate, thorough, and independent review of any execution where the condemned prisoner struggles or appears to suffer, where the execution is otherwise prolonged, or where the execution deviates from the adopted protocols and regulations concerning the execution process.