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DeSantis expands death penalty to cover child rapists, sets likely challenge to Supreme Court

The new law, signed Monday, is in direct conflict with a 2008 Supreme Court decision.
death penalty
Posted at 4:44 PM, May 02, 2023
and last updated 2023-05-02 18:55:06-04

The state of Florida could soon find itself in the middle of a Supreme Court Challenge.

On Monday, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed legislation, which will become law on October 1st, which makes convicted child rapists eligible for the death penalty.
The new law is in direct conflict with a 2008 Supreme Court ruling which found rape cannot be a capital crime unless the victim dies.

“We think that decision was wrong,” DeSantis said Monday at an event in Titusville. “We think in the worst of the worst cases the only appropriate punishment is the ultimate punishment.”

The Governor signed two other bills also focused on public safety.

“In Florida we stand for the protection of children,” the Governor said to a large applause. In the case of Kennedy V. Louisiana, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled 5 to 4 that the rape of a child is not a capital offense unless the child dies.

However, the Supreme Court today is more conservative than the court in 2008 when the Kennedy decision was handed down. DeSantis said he is prepared to “take this law all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.”

“You’re preaching to the choir in terms of how horrific this kind of crime is. But this is not the answer,” said Maria DeLiberato, Executive Director of Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty.

Due to Florida’s “conformity clause” if a capital case involving a child under the age of 12 who is still alive heads to a local court, the courts would automatically have to rule it unconstitutional, according to DeLiberato.

It could take years for a case to go from the local circuits to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“It’s all of these steps that have to happen. I think what’s really important to note is that at the center of that is a living child victim,” DeLiberato said.

The bill passed overwhelmingly with support from both republicans and democrats. One of the leading supporters of the legislation was Senate Minority Leader Lauren Book (D-Broward County) herself a victim of child sexual abuse.

This is the second major change to the death penalty in recent months.
In April, Governor DeSantis signed legislation lowering the threshold of jurors needed to recommend the death penalty from a unanimous 12 to 8.

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