DeSantis allows death penalty as punishment for convicted child rapists in Florida

"The worst of the worst crimes deserve the worst of the worst punishment."

Roberto Wakerell-Cruz Montreal QC
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has signed a bill allowing the death penalty for individuals convicted of raping a child under the age of 12, challenging current US Supreme Court precedent.

At a "Law & Order" press conference in Titusville, Florida, DeSantis signed three bills, including one that makes convicted child rapists eligible for capital punishment with the minimum sentence of life in prison without parole, according to Fox News.

The two other bills impose additional penalties on fentanyl and drug-related crimes that target children. Their purpose is to safeguard Floridians from Democrat-supported bail reforms in liberal jurisdictions.

"The other thing we're doing is making clear that in Florida we stand for the protection of children. And unfortunately, in our society, you have very heinous sex crimes that are committed against children under the age of 12 years old. These are really the worst of the worst. And what happens is, the perpetrators of these crimes are often times serial offenders," DeSantis said on Monday.

"If they do that once, chances are they will do it again unless they're stopped. Unless they're incapacitated. We really believe that part of a just society is to have appropriate punishment. And so, if you commit a crime that is really, really heinous, you should have the ultimate punishment."

The move by the Republican governor, who is rumored to announce a 2024 presidential run in the coming weeks, defies the 2008 US Supreme Court ruling that the Eighth Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishment in the US Constitution prohibits the death penalty for child rape.

DeSantis stated that he believed the decision was wrong and that in the most severe cases, the only appropriate punishment is the ultimate punishment. He explained that the bill sets up a procedure to challenge that precedent and to say that in Florida, "the worst of the worst crimes deserve the worst of the worst punishment."

The legislation, which goes into effect on October 1, permits the state to pursue capital punishment when an adult is convicted of sexually assaulting a child under the age of 12 and provides a framework for prosecutors to do so under Florida's capital punishment laws.

Florida is among a handful of states with existing laws allowing the death penalty on child rape convictions but has not used capital punishment due to the current US Supreme Court precedent. The Florida Supreme Court has also ruled against capital punishment in sexual battery convictions.

The bill was approved in the Florida Legislature with bipartisan support.

Last month, DeSantis also signed a bill to eliminate a unanimous jury requirement in death penalty sentencing, allowing capital punishment with a jury recommendation of at least 8-4 in favor of execution.

The governor also signed another bill on Monday to enhance criminal penalties for the sale of fentanyl and fentanyl analogs disguised as candy or other food products.

The third bill requires the Florida Supreme Court to develop a uniform bond schedule for state courts to follow and prohibits a chief judge from setting bonds below the schedule. It also prevents individuals charged with violent or heinous crimes from being released before their first court appearance.

"We're really delivering a big agenda," DeSantis said. "So this is one important – but admittedly very small part – of an overall large agenda and very bold agenda that's really setting the terms of the debate for the country, quite frankly."

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