University of Miami Law Review


As the federal appeals court with jurisdiction over Florida and Alabama—two leaders in capital punishment in the United States—the Eleventh Circuit reviews several claims each year related to capital punishment. Florida is home to one of the largest death row populations in the country. Thus, understanding Florida’s capital sentencing scheme is important for understanding capital punishment nationwide.

This Article analyzes the empirical demographics of Florida’s death row population and reviews how defendants are sentenced to death and ultimately executed in Florida. The analysis reveals that although age is not a factor upon which murder/manslaughter defendants are discriminated against in the sentencing process, gender and race are. With respect to the death penalty, gender discrimination appears consistent, but racial discrimination appears inconsistent and, instead, more apparent in the processes that occur before defendants are actually sent to death row. Additionally, the analysis suggests the absence of discrimination in capital sentencing and executions because the racial, age, and ethnic makeup of Florida’s death row and, more specifically, those who are executed in Florida, are almost completely unpredictable.

Further, the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2016 decision in Hurst v. Florida, together with the Supreme Court of Florida’s decisions on remand in Hurst v. State and other related decisions, upended capital sentencing in Florida and beyond. This Article examines how the Supreme Court of Florida’s post-Hurst framework—which the Eleventh Circuit has also been called upon to review and implement in reviewing several federal habeas claims since Hurst––affected Florida’s death row empirically. In doing so, this Article foreshadows how the Court’s 2020 decision in State v. Poole, which recedes from the Court’s decision on remand in Hurst, and other potential decisions in the future may affect Florida’s death row.