Delaware Supreme Court Rules Death Penalty is Unconstitutional
8.2.16 | Today, the Delaware Supreme Court issued an order declaring Delaware’s death penalty statute unconstitutional in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent ruling in Hurst v. Florida. The Hurst decision found that juries, not judges, must ultimately decide whether a defendant should receive a death sentence. The decision is attached.
Last year, Delaware’s State Senate voted to replace the death penalty with a sentence of life without parole for the second time in three years. The bill was supported by Governor Jack Markell, despite narrowly failing to get enough votes in the House earlier this year. Given the political obstacles that would have to be overcome to amend the statute, it is unlikely the General Assembly will move to revive the death penalty–rendering the state without a valid death penalty statute, just like New York state.
Delaware now joins the growing majority of states that have abandoned the death penalty in law or in practice. Including Delaware, nineteen states and the District of Columbia formally ban capital punishment, and 12 states haven’t carried out an execution in approximately 10 or more years (CO, NH, KS, PA, CA, AR, WY, MT, NC, NV, OR, and NE). Three of those 12 states have gubernatorial moratoriums on executions in place (Colorado, Oregon, and Pennsylvania) and Nebraska’s conservative legislature voted to replace the death penalty with life without parole last year. That decision will be decided by the voters in November. Washington state also has a gubernatorial moratorium in place.