Gov. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., speaks to a crowd at First Baptist North on Wednesday, April 19, 2023, in Spartanburg, S.C.
CNN  — 

Florida’s Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill Thursday that will no longer require juries agree unanimously to recommend death sentences, reducing the number of jurors need to recommend a death sentence to the lowest threshold of any state with capital punishment.

SB 450 reduces the number of jurors needed to recommend a death sentence from 12 to 8.

The bill was prompted by a jury’s decision last year to not hand the death penalty to Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz. A jury recommended Cruz receive a life sentence without the possibility of parole instead for the February 2018 shooting at Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Of the 12 jurors in Cruz’s trial, three voted against the death penalty.

The move left some family members of the victims disappointed and upset.

“A few months ago, we endured another tragic failure of the justice system. Today’s change in Florida law will hopefully save other families from the injustices we have suffered,” Ryan Petty, the father of Parkland victim Alaina Petty, said in a statement Thursday.

Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, an anti-death penalty group, warned that the new law would be challenged immediately and could lead to more wrongful convictions.

“If one of the primary justifications for the death penalty is to provide solace and finality to victims, instituting this new unconstitutional statute almost certainly does the opposite,” FADP’s Director Maria DeLiberato, said in a statement. “This change is a return to Florida’s prior scheme - which the United States Supreme Court has already found unconstitutional - and which required nearly 100 new penalty phase trials. Many of those are still pending. This new law will be immediately challenged, and there will be extensive litigation, plunging the system - and victims’ families in particular - into decades of uncertainty and chaos.”

The ACLU of Florida also slammed the new bill.

“Florida already has the highest number of death row exonerations in the country. With this bill and others, Florida is rapidly widening the net of who will be sent to death row with absolutely no consideration for the flaws that will inevitably lead to the harm of more innocent people,” Tiffani Lennon, the executive director of the ACLU of Florida, said in a statement.

Florida once required a simple majority, or 7-5, vote for a death sentence. But the US Supreme Court ruled the state’s sentencing process unconstitutional in 2016, because a judge was allowed to overrule a life recommendation and impose the death penalty.

That was followed by a Florida Supreme Court ruling that found the jury must be unanimous to impose the death penalty, and Florida lawmakers adopted the unanimity requirement soon after. But the Florida Supreme Court reversed that ruling in 2020, and while acknowledging the legislature had already changed the law, the ruling gave the legislature discretion to revise the statute.

“Once a defendant in a capital case is found guilty by a unanimous jury, one juror should not be able to veto a capital sentence,” DeSantis said in a statement. “I’m proud to sign legislation that will prevent families from having to endure what the Parkland families have and ensure proper justice will be served in the state of Florida.”

SB 450 found broad support among Florida lawmakers. The legislation’s sponsors framed it as an attempt to curtail the influence of “activist jurors” who, critics say, lie about their openness to considering the death penalty when questioned during jury selection. The bill leaves in place requirements a jury be unanimous to find guilt, and Florida judges will still be allowed to overrule a death penalty recommendation and impose a life sentence instead.

Additionally, if less than 8 jurors determine a defendant should be sentenced to death, the jury’s recommendation to the court needs to be a sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole, according to the bill.

Nearly all 27 states that have the death penalty require a unanimous jury to recommend or sentence a capital defendant to death. Currently, the only exception is Alabama, where a judge can impose a death sentence if 10 of 12 jurors recommend it.

CNN’s Melissa Alonso and Dakin Andone contributed to this report.