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State Lawmakers Pursuing Death Penalty for Child Rapists

Florida lawmakers are pursuing legislation that would “allow the death penalty for people who commit sexual battery on children under age 12,” according to a CBS News report.

The outlet reported that the Florida Senate Rules Committee approved its version of the bill (SB 1342), allowing it for a full vote in the Senate.

The Florida House is scheduled to discuss its version of the bill (HB 1297) on Thursday.

In the past, the U.S. Supreme Court and Florida Supreme Court ruled that capital punishment in rape cases is unconstitutional.

The bills argue that the court cases were “wrongly decided.”

From CBS News:

In a rebuke of the court precedents, the House and Senate bills say that a 1981 Florida Supreme Court case and a 2008 U.S. Supreme Court case were “wrongly decided,” with the Senate version saying “such cases are an egregious infringement of the state’s power to punish the most heinous of crimes.”

Senate bill sponsor Jonathan Martin, a Fort Myers Republican who is a former prosecutor, said the bill would create needed “constitutional boundaries by providing a sentencing procedure for those heinous crimes” that would be similar to death-penalty laws for murder.

“If an individual rapes an 11-year-old, a 10-year-old, a 2-year-old or a 5-year-old, they should be subject to the death penalty,” Martin said Tuesday after the Rules Committee approved his bill.

Aaron Wayt, who represented the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers at Tuesday’s meeting, said people want “vengeance” when children are victims of sexual battery, but he pointed to U.S. Supreme Court precedent on the issue.

“This bill invites a longer, costlier (legal) process for the victim and their family that they will endure,” Wayt said. “While this crime, anyone convicted of it is vile, heinous, the Constitution itself, the case law, the Supreme Court demands a maximum of life in prison. And so while it’s not the vengeance we all want, it’s the justice that the Constitution demands.”

The outlet reported that the bills could allow defendants to receive the death penalty based on the recommendations of at least eight out of 12 jurors.

Ultimately, judges would have the discretion to sentence defendants to the death penalty or life in prison.

Unanimous jury recommendations are currently required before judges can impose the death penalty in murder cases.

However, Florida lawmakers are voting to change the requirement to recommendations of at least eight out of 12 jurors.

Red State added:

Republicans, who now hold supermajorities in both chambers, may have been encouraged by the appointment of more originalist judges in the Florida Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court. In 2020, the Florida Supreme Court declared that unanimity in jury recommendations was not necessary for imposing the death penalty in murder cases, overturning the 2016 ruling that required unanimity.

Gov. Ron DeSantis is widely expected to sign off on this legislation, having previously signaled his support for expanding the death penalty to a wider range of crimes. “I believe the only appropriate punishment that would be commensurate to that would be capital,” he said of sex predators back in January. “Everyone feels that way when you see this.”


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