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Time for 12 Jurors
(in Florida)

        It’s “time for 12” jurors in Florida, to join 48 states, the Federal Government, and 2,500 years of Western Civilization, of Judeo-Christian tradition. When Florida prosecutors finally have to convince 12 jurors of guilt, like in the rest of America, prison costs will plunge as weak cases are dropped and realistic, fiscally responsible, plea deals are made. It is not “soft-on-crime” to require Florida prosecutors to prove their charges to 12 jurors at trial, as in the rest of the United States of America; especially since there has been no Grand Jury requirement in Florida since 1934.

        The Grand Jury requirement in most states and the Federal system has, since a 1934 Florida constitutional amendment, been replaced by a simple signature by any assistant state’s attorney. It is not just a problem of 6 jurors versus 12 jurors at trial, but of 6 versus 24; 12 grand jurors and 12 trial jurors who have seen the State’s evidence, 24 citizens who have reviewed the case in other states vs. only 6 in Florida.

        “Twice as easy, half the work to convict,” gloat Florida’s prosecutors, as they only have to convince 6 jurors of guilt. The “presumption of innocence,” that long golden thread stitching together centuries of English and American jurisprudence, is dangerously frayed in Florida, where the State only has to overcome “the presumption of innocence” before 6 jurors.

        It’s “time for 12” jurors. It’s no longer 1885 in Florida, when 6 white men made up a jury in a frontier state with only 300,000 residents. Yet 125 years later, black voters and women voters and 18,000,000 residents and telephones and automobiles and flying machines later, and now a Black President later, Florida still has only 6 jurors in felony trials.

        It’s time to stop allowing Florida prosecutors to make the same speech they could have made for the last 125 years:

“Well, Mr. Defendant, we would have
just loved to have had a black juror
for your trial, but as you can see – one,
two, three, four, five, six – the jury box
is full.”

        That excuse would not work with 12 jurors. It does not matter if there are blacks in the jury pool, if the jury box is full. These are inherent mathematical racist elements in only having 6 jurors in the jury box. It is statistically impossible to seat racially diverse juries, in a state where 1 out of 7 citizens is black, when there are only 6 seats in the jury box; a dangerously unjust game of musical chairs.

        If there is room in the front of the bus, there is room in the front of the box, the jury box. Room for 12 jurors is room for black jurors; "it's time for 12 jurors" in Florida.

        Amend Florida Statute 913.10, now, to require 12 jurors in all felony trials. There is no need to amend the 1885/1968 Florida Constitution, which requires “at least” 6 jurors. Just the votes of 61 Florida Representatives and 21 Florida Senators will finally bring Florida from the 19th century (1885) into the 20th century, now that the 21st century is 10% over. It’s “time for 12” jurors in Florida.

        The Second District Court of Appeals is now begging, begging, this Legislature to amend Florida Statute 913.10, now, to require 12 jurors in every felony trial in Florida. See Gonzalez v. State 982 So. 2d 77 (Fla. 2d DCA 2008), for a detailed, scholarly opinion on why it is, now, “time for 12” jurors in Florida.

        There are a few other legislative changes that can be done now to drop prison costs to more realistic levels. First amend Florida Statute 913.10, now, to require 12 jurors at every felony trial; and amend the Florida Criminal Punishment Code to once again require prison sentences that do not exceed code-score sentences, or to require counties to pay for all prison costs that exceed code-score sentences.

        The second major change that this Florida Legislature can do to reduce prison costs, and to free up sales tax revenues for other uses, is to amend the Criminal Punishment Code, Florida Statute 921.002, to once again require prison sentences that do not exceed code-score sentences; code-scores set by the Legislature which presumably included the socially appropriate costs of prisons to state sales tax payers.

        Since 1998, Florida’s elected circuit court judges have been free to exceed code-scores at will, and some do just that, to boast to local voters of being “tough-on-crime,” while passing on prison costs to residents of other counties far, far away, one visit to Wal-Mart at a time, one sales tax paid at a time.

        It was wrong to allow locally elected judges the unfettered discretion to exceed code-score sentences, and to sentence to statutory maximum sentences, sentences which cost $30,000 per year per prisoner. A code-score sentence of 2 years in prison will cost state sales tax payers $60,000, but a judge who exceeds code-scores, and sentences to 15 years in prison, imposes a $450,000 cost of prison on state sales tax payers, $390,000 beyond code-scores.

        It’s “taxation-without-representation,” to allow a judge in one county the power to exceed code-score sentences, and so to increase sales taxes paid by the residents of the other 66 counties, citizens of Florida who cannot vote that judge out of office.

        Stop allowing judges in a county like Hillsborough (Tampa), with half of Miami-Dade’s population, to send twice as many men to prison each year, prison costs paid by sales tax payers in other counties. If the ratio, {men sent to prison, divided by the county population}, in Hillsborough County had matched that of Miami-Dade or Palm Beach County, 3,000 fewer men would have been sent to prison from Hillsborough County last year, and $90,000,000 per year less would have been spent on prison costs for those extra, too many, prisoners sentenced from Hillsborough County. Hometown pride aside, Hillsborough’s crime rate is not 4 times greater than Miami-Dade or Palm Beach County.

        If Cadillacs were free, you could close down the county bus line, and save a few dollars in taxes. But neither Cadillacs, nor prisons, are free in Florida, and it is time to amend Florida Statute 921.002, the Florida Criminal Punishment Code, to require prison sentences no longer than code-score sentences. Not only will this change eliminate sentencing cost disparity, but it will reduce racial disparity in sentencing, an original purpose of sentencing guidelines, so that sentencing decisions are more uniform throughout Florida, regardless of race – and regardless of the political ambitions of locally elected judges.

        Amend the Florida Criminal Punishment Code to require counties to pay for all prison costs that exceed code-score sentences, to enable and empower local voters, local property tax payers, to decide exactly how tough-on-crime they can afford locally elected judges, Sheriffs, and state’s attorneys to be: “tough-enough-on-crime.”

        If residents of each county were required to pay prison costs for sentences exceeding code-score sentences, by being annually assessed by the state for those prison costs incurred by sentences exceeding code-sentences, those residents could vote intelligently in judicial elections; their annual real estate property tax bills itemizing the actual costs of excessive prison sentences imposed by locally elected judges. This would allow taxation with representation, instead of the current situation of a locally elected judge having the unrestricted ability to exceed code-scores, and so to impose increased sales taxes on residents state-wide.

        Next, eliminate mandatory-minimum prison sentences, and re-sentence to code-score sentences. Each 100 men resentenced and released 10 years early saves $30,000,000, the same savings as 6,000 men released 2 months early, the usual budget band-aid to the usual budget crunch. But this is the “Great Recession” of 2009, and major changes must be made to the budget. California will be reducing its prison population by 35% (155,000 to 100,000) over the next three years, a too-expensive prison over-population blamed largely on mandatory minimum sentences for repeat offenders, a failed social experiment which neither California, nor Florida, can now afford.

        Florida can no longer permit locally elected judges to make decisions such as:

           • A Tampa man sentenced to 2 years of community control commits a technical violation the next day and is then sentenced to 15 years in prison, a $450,000 cost in sales taxes paid by Florida residents.

           • A minor dope-dealer in Miami is sentenced to 100 days in the county jail, then is arrested (for a charge which is dropped) while on a week-long furlough, and is then sentenced to 15 years in prison, costing $450,000 in sales taxes to residents of other counties.

        In just these two examples, the citizens of Florida will have to pay $900,000 in prison costs, for crimes for which, the day before, the appropriate punishment was community control, and 100 days in the county jail. This $900,000 sentence to sales tax payers, in just these two examples, is done too many times each year in Florida, as elected judges sentence to the statutory maximum so that they can be seen as “tough-on-crime” at the next election; afraid that if they do not exceed code-score sentences, that opponents will attack them at the next election.

        It is time for this Legislature to take action, to reduce the prison budget by $900,000,000 per year. This Legislature must act, now, on its own initiative. When full-time, non-term limited judges and state’s attorneys lecture part-time, term-limited Legislators about the Florida criminal justice system – well, it is like Orlando timeshare salesmen preying upon 80-year old tourists from Virginia; it is so easy to take advantage of newcomers with big hearts.

        It’s “time for 12” jurors in Florida, and it is time to again require prison sentences of no more than code-scores, or to require counties to pay for prison costs that exceed code-score sentences.

Prison Budget Cuts

Prison Budget Cuts-The Big Picture

Three Issues:

1.)       “Truth in Sentencing Costs.” Enact a law requiring judges and prosecutors to examine and document total incarceration costs to taxpayers, prior to sentencing. In round numbers, it costs $30,000 per year, per prisoner. The difference in cost between a one-year sentence ($30,000) and a 15-year sentence ($450,000) is not now factored in. It is easy for an elected prosecutor to seek, and easy for a locally elected judge to impose, a maximum length prison sentence, when they do not have to account to society for the actual cost of incarceration. Their “tough on crime” rhetoric may help them to be elected, but the monies to incarcerate to enforce that rhetoric must be raised by the Legislative Branch, for many years to come. The first step is to require prosecutors and judges to specify and quantify these costs.

2.)       “Counties Pay Incarceration Costs,” a policy in which the funding for prison sentences is shifted from state-wide sales taxes to local county property taxes. The state would reduce the sales tax, and instead, assess each county for the annual incarceration costs of each prisoner sentenced from that county.

    This is a basic fairness issue, in a state without an income tax. While the law may permit a maximum 15-year sentence for a second-degree felony, it is the local prosecutor who chooses to seek enhanced and minimum mandatory sentences; and the local elected judge who chooses to sentence to the maximum level. These local elected officials enjoy a “tough on crime” image with local voters and property-tax payers because the cost, say $450,000 for a 15-year sentence, is passed on to other counties throughout Florida. Every time a retired couple in Rural County, Florida goes shopping at a Wal-Mart, they end up paying for the incarceration cost of someone sentenced in a county far, far away.

    While the state may have an obligation to fund the first years of prison, it is the local prosecutors and local judges alone who decide on much longer sentences. Someone has to pay these incarceration costs; someone has to be held accountable. A judge who sentences someone to a year in the county jail does increase local property taxes; but by deciding instead to sentence to a long-term felony, that huge cost is passed outside of the county.

    Again, this is a basic fairness issue, as someone has to pay for these prison costs. When Florida’s population and economy were exploding, funding was not a problem. But Florida’s growth is leveling off and, as the economy worsens, realistic changes in sentencing policies have to be considered. At a minimum, local counties need to be held fiscally accountable for the direct costs of incarceration that result from the options chosen by locally elected prosecutors and judges.

    Because someone has to pay for sentencing decisions made by local prosecutors and local judges, members of the executive and judiciary branch. A 15-year sentence will cost $450,000, but all of that cost is passed out of that county, now, to Wal-Mart shoppers in the other counties, for the next 15 years. Society needs to measure and be aware of these costs, and decide who should best pay for these costs. It is the choice alone of local prosecutors to seek, and local judges to sentence, to the length of incarceration; there should be political and local economic responsibility for these decisions.

3.)      “Time for Twelve.” It is “time for twelve” jurors in every felony trial in Florida, to bring Florida into conformity with 48 other states, and in conformance with Judeo-Christian principles. Florida’s Constitution requires at least six jurors, but the legislature by itself can change this to 12 jurors. The 1885 Florida Constitution reflected a state population of only 300,000 people, of whom only 50,000 voted (no women). Florida’s current population is about 18,000,000; surely six more jurors can be found.

    “For” said he, “as Christ and the twelve apostles were finally to judge the world, so human tribunals should be composed of the King and twelve wise men.”

    (King Morgan of Wales, 725 A.D. See Williams v. Florida, 90 S. Ct. 1893, at footnote 23 (1970); for a historical discussion of the importance of twelve jurors in Western society. 12 apostles, 12 Tribes of Israel, 12 patriarchs, 12 officers of King Solomon-But only 6 jurors in Florida).

    It is “Time for Twelve” in Florida. In other states, a prosecutor who convinces six jurors of guilt is half-way to a conviction; in Florida, that prosecutor would be half-way home, to his own home, the conviction completed. It is not about Florida’s high crime rate; it is that it is too easy to convince six, lonely, jurors to convict. And, of course, taxpayers must pay for incarceration costs, one trip to Wal-Mart at a time.

    Yes, it is “Time for Twelve” in Florida. While Florida’s prison population has doubled since 1993, New York’s has actually decreased during that time. It is not that Florida’s prosecutors are that good, or that local Florida’s judges are that “tough on crime,” but it is largely that it is just too easy to convince six jurors of guilt. Florida needs to change to 12 jurors of guilt. Florida needs to change to 12 jurors, to conform to Western moral and religious principles.

     ISSUE I: Do six-person juries violate a defendant's Sixth and Fourteenth Amendment rights under the United State's Constitution? ISSUE II: Did the trial court err by failing to hold a hearing on Appellant's motion to restore 12-person juries? ISSUE III: Did the trial court err by failing to give Appellant's requested self-defense jury instruction?

     ISSUE I: Do six-person juries violate the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution in felony prosecutions? (restated)