The New Yorker has a very good article about the death penalty and how certain jurisdictions allow judges to impose a sentence of death even after the jury has voted for life.
States were allowed to rewrite their death-penalty laws. To satisfy the Supreme Court’s concerns about arbitrariness, Florida’s new version shifted final sentencing authority from jurors to judges—the jury’s sentence became merely an advisory verdict. Florida’s judges were not afforded complete discretion, though; they had to give a jury’s recommendation “great weight” and could exercise override only when the justification for a death sentence was “so clear and convincing that virtually no reasonable person could differ.” Satisfied with these and other changes, the Supreme Court, in 1976, found the statutes in Florida, Texas, and Georgia constitutional. Today, thirty-two states sanction capital punishment.
Alabama modelled a new death-penalty statute on Florida’s and adopted it in 1981, but without the “great weight” and “clear and convincing” safeguards. Alabama required only that a judge “consider” the jury’s sentencing verdict. A jury’s life-without-parole vote—even a unanimous one—was given no statutory standing. As Gordon noted in Shonelle Jackson’s death order, “Neither the Alabama Death Act nor Alabama case authority informs the trial court how it is to consider the advisory verdict.” To continue reading the article go here.