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New sentencing ordered for 1990 cop killer

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(iStock / zimmytws)

Pointing to a major U.S. Supreme Court decision about the constitutionality of Florida's death-penalty sentencing system, the state Supreme Court on Thursday ordered a new sentencing proceeding for a man convicted of murdering a Broward County sheriff's deputy in 1990.

The divided Florida court's ruling came in the case of Death Row inmate Lancelot Armstrong, who was convicted of killing Deputy John Greeney and the attempted murder of Deputy Robert Sallustio.

The ruling was rooted in a January 2016 U.S. Supreme Court decision that found Florida's death-penalty sentencing system unconstitutional because it gave too much power to judges, instead of juries, in determining whether defendants should be sent to Death Row.

That decision, which was followed by a Florida Supreme Court ruling about a lack of unanimity in jury recommendations in capital cases, has prevented the death penalty from being carried out during the past year and has fueled appeals by Death Row inmates.

Chief Justice Jorge Labarga and justices Barbara Pariente, R. Fred Lewis and Peggy Quince were in the majority in ordering a new sentencing proceeding for Armstrong.

Justices Charles Canady and Ricky Polston dissented. Senior Justice James E.C. Perry dissented in part by saying Armstrong should receive a life sentence.