Florida Governor Signs Bill Allowing Death Penalty for Child Rapists and Tougher Sentences for Fentanyl Dealers and Anti-Semitic Crimes

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has signed a bill into law that would allow the state to impose the death penalty on those convicted of sexual battery against children under the age of 12.[0] The law also includes a minimum sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole for child rapists. The bill was one of three “anti-crime” bills signed into law by DeSantis on Monday, with the others imposing tougher sentences on fentanyl dealers and addressing anti-Semitic hate crimes.[1]

The bill allowing for the death penalty for child rapists has faced criticism for being unconstitutional as the 2008 US Supreme Court decision in Kennedy v. Louisiana prohibits states from imposing the death penalty for child rape if the victim did not die.[2] However, DeSantis has defended the law, stating that the “perpetrators of these crimes are oftentimes serial offenders” and that “part of a just society is to have appropriate punishment.”[3] The law also includes a provision stating that a minimum of eight out of 12 jurors must agree to sentence someone to death, one of the lowest thresholds in the nation.[4]

The other two bills signed into law by DeSantis also focus on issues of law and order in the state. The first imposes a minimum three-year prison sentence on those who sell, traffic, or manufacture fentanyl and similar drugs, with the penalty jumping to a minimum of 25 years and a $1 million fine if a minor is involved.[2] The second bill addresses anti-Semitic hate crimes in the state, which saw a 42% increase in incidents last year, according to the Anti-Defamation League. The bill aims to curb harassment and threats and includes provisions for increased penalties for those who commit anti-Semitic crimes.

DeSantis has been vocal about his focus on law and order in the state and has been praised by some in the Republican Party for his tough stance on crime. However, the new laws have faced criticism from civil rights groups and some legal experts who argue that they may be unconstitutional or disproportionately affect certain groups. Despite this, DeSantis has continued to push for tougher laws, stating that he believes “the worst of the worst crimes deserve the worst of the worst punishment.”[5]

In addition to his domestic policy agenda, DeSantis has also been making moves on the international stage. He recently made a trip to Israel as part of his overseas trade mission, where he met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and signed a law to combat anti-Semitism.[6] DeSantis has been rumored as a potential candidate for the Republican Party primaries ahead of the 2024 US presidential elections, and his focus on law and order may play well with conservative voters. However, his controversial policies may also draw criticism from opponents.

0. “Florida Gov. DeSantis signs bill allowing death sentence for child rape” Axios, 2 May. 2023, https://www.axios.com/2023/05/02/florida-death-penalty-child-rape

1. “DeSantis takes hard stance on crime after signing three bills into law” The Center Square, 1 May. 2023, https://www.thecentersquare.com/florida/article_826ae238-e861-11ed-9f08-678a5a945f4d.html

2. “Florida governor signs bill targeting ‘rainbow fentanyl’ trafficking” WTSP.com, 1 May. 2023, https://www.wtsp.com/article/news/regional/florida/florida-legislators-hb-1359-rainbow-fentanyl-trafficking/67-6601e876-c743-42f2-b39b-e7790491336f

3. “DeSantis signs bill making child rapists eligible for death penalty at odds with US Supreme Court ruling” KTVZ, 1 May. 2023, https://ktvz.com/news/2023/05/01/desantis-signs-bill-making-child-rapists-eligible-for-death-penalty-at-odds-with-us-supreme-court-ruling

4. “Ron DeSantis signs bill making child rapists eligible for the death penalty:” Daily Mail, 1 May. 2023, https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-12035105/Ron-DeSantis-signs-bill-making-child-rapists-eligible-death-penalty.html

5. “DeSantis expands death penalty in Florida to cover child rapists” The Washington Post, 2 May. 2023, https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2023/05/01/desantis-death-penalty-child-rapists/

6. “Ron DeSantis signs bill to combat hate crimes while in Israel” NBC News, 27 Apr. 2023, https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/2024-election/ron-desantis-signs-bill-combat-hate-crimes-israel-rcna81799

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