ORLANDO, Fla._The U.S. Supreme Court stalled executions in nine states this week while the justices determine if laws there are unconstitutional because they allow a judge, rather than a jury, to decide if a criminal is put to death.
What the justices do with a case out of Arizona could affect more than 800 inmates sentenced to die there, in Florida, and in Alabama, Colorado, Delaware, Idaho, Indiana, Montana and Nebraska. Nearly half of those convicts _ 372 _ are on Florida's death row in Starke.
Architects of Florida's death-penalty law were caught by surprise. After the Supreme Court struck down executions nationwide in 1972, states began adopting new laws tailored to satisfy the court's constitutional objections to the death penalty. The Florida and U.S. Supreme Courts in 1976 upheld new laws in Florida.
Since 1972, Florida judges have overridden 167 jury decisions to sentence defendants to life in …