When thinking of the case of characters that play a role in a legal proceeding, the Judge,  jury, witnesses, plaintiff and defendant, and attorneys quickly come to mind. Of these people, the Judge is the one most people think of as having the final say and ultimate power. The Judge’s job is to rule on objections, make sure the proceedings follow the letter of the law, and that the final result is legally accurate. The Judge is an impartial party to the case, and must rule on issues only by looking at the evidence presented. But there are some things a Judge is not permitted to do, and when a Judge acts outside the bounds of their authority, the end result should be challenged.

The United States Supreme Court recently made clear at least one thing a Judge cannot do in a criminal case, and that thing was to sentence a defendant to death. The issue made its way to the country’s highest court when death row inmate Timothy Lee Hurst filed a challenge to the sentence of death he received in a murder case. The U.S. Supreme Court had this to say:

  • While the jury recommended death, the fact the Judge was the final decision make in handing down the death penalty sentence was a flawed process.
  • The Court reasoned this procedure was unconstitutional because the Sixth Amendment requires a jury to examine the evidence and facts supporting a sentence of death.

This decision could have far reaching impact, because it calls into question the death penalty sentencing process in the entire state. The many men and women sitting on death row will likely find reason to challenge their sentencing, by claiming they sit on death row as a result of an unlawful and unconstitutional practice. What this might mean is an influx of appeals being filed, and a change to the state’s process for placing defendants on death row. This case is also a good example of how the law is fluid and ever changing. We stay on top of the latest trends, so we can offer you the most accurate advice for your case. If you have questions about criminal law proceedings or have been arrested for a crime, call us today for help.

For help with criminal defense, call a competent criminal defense attorney in Stuart and the Treasure Coast for help. We offer representation for a wide range of offenses, call us to schedule an appointment.