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Justices turn down another 10 death row appeals

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The Florida Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected another 10 appeals by longtime Death Row inmates, bringing to 60 the number of similar rejections since early last week.

The rulings Tuesday -- like the other 50 -- came in cases where death sentences were finalized before June 2002.

The inmates’ appeals stemmed from a 2016 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in a case known as Hurst v. Florida and a subsequent Florida Supreme Court decision.

The 2016 U.S. Supreme Court ruling found Florida's death-penalty sentencing system was unconstitutional because it gave too much authority to judges, instead of juries.

The subsequent Florida Supreme Court ruling said juries must unanimously agree on critical findings before judges can impose death sentences and must unanimously recommend the death penalty.

But the Florida Supreme Court made the new sentencing requirements apply to cases since June 2002.

That is when the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling known as Ring v. Arizona that was a premise for striking down Florida's death-penalty sentencing system in 2016.

In each of the 60 cases, the Death Row inmates had been sentenced to death before the Ring decision and argued that the new unanimity requirements should also apply to their cases.

The Florida Supreme Court turned down all of the appeals on similar grounds, though the way justices have issued the rulings in six batches is highly unusual.

The inmates who lost their appeals Tuesday were Stephen Todd Booker in an Alachua County case; Toney Deron Davis in a Duval County case; Thomas Lee Gudinas in an Orange County case; Anthony Lamarca in a Pinellas County case; Marbel Mendoza in a Miami-Dade County case; Dominick Occhicone in a Pasco County case; Bruce Douglas Pace in a Santa Rosa County case; Glen Edward Rogers in a Hillsborough County case; Dennis Sochor in a Broward County case; and Ernest Whitfield in a Sarasota County case.