Florida passes bill allowing
for child sexual abusers
Florida lawmakers have approved legislation backed by Gov. Ron DeSantis that would permit the death penalty for those convicted of sexually abusing children.
The bipartisan proposal — which passed by a vote of 34-5 late Tuesday — will also allow juries to hand down death sentences by votes of at least 8-4, after previously requiring unanimity.
The bill — which passed the Florida House of Representatives 95-14 last week and which DeSantis is expected to sign — would apply to those convicted of abusing a child under the age of 12.
“My view is, you have some of these people that will be serial rapists of six, seven-year-old kids,” DeSantis told “Good Morning Orlando” Monday. “I think the death penalty is the only appropriate punishment when you have situations like that.”
State Senate Minority Leader Lauren Book (D-Davie) and state Sen. Jonathan Martin (R-Fort Myers), the bill’s
co-sponsors, argued that those who sexually harm kids are likely to repeat their crime and deserve the ultimate penalty.
“Once a predator has a child ensnared, they will harm that child over and over and over again,” Book said. “And then move on to another innocent child.”
Book argued that execution guards against the targeting of additional victims.
“Pedophile behavior has been deemed highly repetitive to the point of compulsion,” she said.
State Sen. Rosalind Osgood (D-Broward), one of the five who opposed the bill, said she agreed that sexual attacks on kids are severe crimes, but told fellow lawmakers that she struggled with imposing the death penalty in general due to her religious beliefs.
The bill also runs up against Supreme Court precedent. In 2008, the high court ruled 5-4 in Kennedy v. Louisiana that the death penalty could not be levied against child rapists or anyone who committed a crime in which the victim did not die.
However, DeSantis suggested this week that the current Supreme Court, made up of six conservatives and three liberals, might be open to overturning that decision.
The death penalty controversy made headlines in Florida last year after a jury spared Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz from execution, instead handing down a life sentence.
All but one juror voted for Cruz to be executed, which DeSantis said Monday was “really the only appropriate punishment.” “If you don’t support capital punishment, I respect that,” the governor added, “but the way to deal with that is to try to get the laws changed in the state through the democratic process – not to be on a jury and to nullify capital punishment.”