Governor Ron DeSantis has secured the passing of a law in Florida that permits the use of the death penalty for individuals found guilty of child sexual abuse in the state. The bill, which received support from both sides of the aisle, was passed with a vote of 34-5 on Tuesday, April 18. Previously, a unanimous agreement from all 12 jurors was necessary for the implementation of the death penalty. However, under the new legislation, a majority of 8 jurors voting in favor is sufficient to impose this sentence.
The bill, which has been passed by the Florida House of Representatives, and applies to offenders who have been found guilty of sexually assaulting a child below the age of 12, is expected to be signed into law later this week by Governor DeSantis.
Although the decision has faced opposition from individuals who do not support the use of the death penalty, Governor DeSantis is of the opinion that it is the correct course of action. "My view is, you have some of these people that will be serial rapists of six, seven-year-old kids," he told "Good Morning Orlando" Monday. "I think the death penalty is the only appropriate punishment when you have situations like that."
In a show of bipartisanship, both Democrats and Republicans collaborated to ensure the passage of the bill. According to State Senate Minority Leader Lauren Book (D-Davie) and Senator Jonathan Martin (R-Fort Myers), who supported the legislation, the death penalty is the only fitting punishment for individuals who commit sexual offenses against children.
"Once a predator has a child ensnared, they will harm that child over and over and over again. And then move on to another innocent child," Book said. "Pedophile behavior has been deemed highly repetitive to the point of compulsion."
Despite the passage of the bill, there are lawmakers who are opposed to it. One of the five who voted against it expressed the view that although those found guilty of sexually abusing minors should receive lengthy prison sentences, the use of the death penalty conflicts with their strong religious convictions. Additionally, a 2008 decision by the Supreme Court ruled that child sex offenders or individuals who cause harm or injury, but not death, cannot be sentenced to the death penalty.