First State freezes all death penalty cases
Superior Court President Judge Jan Jurden is halting all 39 of Delaware’s pending death penalty cases as the state’s highest court weighs the system’s constitutionality.
The official stay from Jurden comes just days after another Superior Court judge asked the Delaware Supreme Court to rule on the legality of the state’s capital punishment program.
Part of the First State’s system resembles Florida’s, which the U.S. Supreme Court struck down as unconstitutional last month.
In Delaware, juries have to unanimously find at least one aggravating factor to recommend a death sentence. Then, a judge weighs all relevant information that came out at trial before either sentencing that person to die or giving them life in prison.
All but one Supreme Court justice found putting more power in the hands of judges unconstitutional in their recent ruling.
State lawmakers in the House rejected a bill that would overturn capital punishment in Delaware altogether last week.
The Public Defender’s Office and the state will file arguments to the Delaware Supreme Court in the coming weeks, with a ruling expected before the summer.