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Hearing for taxi driver killer turns into death penalty debate

Paul Durousseau convicted in 1999 murder of Tyresa Mack

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – An appeal from Jacksonville death row inmate Paul Durousseau quickly turned into a discussion Thursday at the state Supreme Court in Tallahassee about whether all 389 people on death row should be retried or be automatically sentenced to life in prison.

The court has been grappling with the decision since the way inmates are sentenced to death was declared unconstitutional in January. Lawyer Rickard Kurtiz said it's clear Durousseau's sentence can’t remain in place.

Afterward, claims lawyer Neal Roth called the legislative action political payback.

The court asked tough questions about the wording of the fee arrangement and of legislative intent. A ruling is expected in several months.      

Durousseau was a taxi driver convicted in the 1999 murder of Tyresa Mack. He was sentenced to death in 2007.

He was also accused in the murders of six other women, but never tried.

Five women were found strangled and killed between January through February 2003. Two of the women were pregnant. 

The Florida Supreme Court upheld Durousseau's sentence on the automatic appeal.

Now Dorousseau's lawyer is seeking post-conviction relief on grounds of ineffective counsel and the U.S. Supreme Court's Hurst ruling that found Florida's death penalty law unconstitutional.