Within hours of the U.S. Supreme Court handing down a ruling invalidating Florida's process for sentencing criminals to death, the next death-row inmate scheduled to be executed filed a petition seeking to test the ramifications of the ruling.
The execution of convicted double-murderer Michael Lambrix is set for Feb. 11. An order issued by the Supreme Court Tuesday (and announced today) orders attorneys for the state to answer how Hurst v. Florida -- the case which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on this week -- applies to Lambrix's case.
The court’s 8-1 opinion in Hurst states that a jury must impose a death sentence. Under current law, judges make that decision based on the jury’s recommendation, a procedure unique to Florida. Both Lambrix and Mark James Asay, who is scheduled to be executed in March, were sentenced to death under the now-unconstitutional rules system, as were an unknown number among Florida's 390 death-row inmates.
The Florida Supreme Court ordered the state to respond by Jan. 20 with answers to: "the retroactivity of Hurst, the effect of Hurst in light of the aggravating factors found by the trial court in Lambrix’s case, and whether any error in Lambrix’s case is harmless."
Florida's Supreme Court justices haven't addressed the Hurst ruling and don't plan to, except in open court where appropriate for the cases before them, a court spokesman said. Ethics rules prohibit the justices from commenting on pending matters.