Florida Governor Signs Bill Allowing Death Penalty for Child Rapists

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has signed a bill that allows the death penalty to be imposed on those convicted of sexual battery against children under the age of 12.[0] The bill challenges a 2008 US Supreme Court decision that prohibits states from applying the death penalty for child rape if the victim did not die, as it violates the Eighth Amendment’s Cruel and Unusual Punishment clause. DeSantis has said that he is prepared to take the law to the US Supreme Court to overrule previous judicial precedents that have shielded child rapists from the death penalty.[1] The bill also guarantees that all child rapists receive a minimum sentence of life in prison without parole.[2]

The Florida Governor has signed several other bills this week aimed at strengthening “law and order” in the state and combating crime. The bills include HB 269, which strengthens Florida’s ability to combat anti-Semitism and makes it a felony to harass people for their religion or ethnicity.[3] The Israel Heritage Foundation has praised this bill and urged other states to enact similar legislation to combat anti-Semitism.[4] Another bill signed by DeSantis is HB 1359, which strengthens penalties for those who sell or manufacture fentanyl and similar drugs.[5] DeSantis invoked the specter of drug dealers disguising fentanyl as Halloween candy to try to get it into children, a practice experts say is rare, if not nonexistent.[6]

DeSantis has also signed HB 1627, the most wide-ranging of the bills, which requires the Florida Supreme Court to develop a uniform statewide bond schedule by the beginning of next year, establishing a standard set of bail amounts for different crimes across the whole state.[1] The legislation also adds crimes such as DUI manslaughter, fentanyl trafficking, written threats to kill, and extortion to the list of crimes eligible for pretrial detention.[7]

Critics have raised concerns about the constitutionality of the death penalty for child rape, as well as the potential for wrongful convictions and the disproportionate impact on marginalized communities. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Florida has called for the repeal of the death penalty entirely, stating that it is “a failed, costly, and unjust government program that risks innocent lives, is racially biased, and does nothing to make our communities safer.”

DeSantis and his supporters, however, argue that the death penalty is a necessary punishment for the “worst of the worst crimes.”[8] The Governor has said that “we really believe that part of a just society is to have appropriate punishment” and that “if you commit a crime that is really, really heinous, you should have the ultimate punishment.”[6] The bills signed by DeSantis reflect his tough-on-crime narrative and his wider campaign against what he sees as liberal crime laws.

0. “Gov. DeSantis signs bill to allow the death penalty for people who commit child rapes” WFTV Orlando, 1 May. 2023, https://www.wftv.com/news/local/happening-1230-pm-desantis-hosting-news-conference-titusville/YXDX6TXULNHQ5BYBOTZZ6CKX44

1. “DeSantis signs series of anti-crime bills into law” The Capitolist, 1 May. 2023, https://thecapitolist.com/desantis-signs-series-of-anti-crime-bills-into-law/

2. “Governor Ron DeSantis signs into law his third consecutive anti-crime legislative package” FOX 4 News Fort Myers WFTX, 1 May. 2023, https://www.fox4now.com/news/state/governor-ron-desantis-signs-into-law-his-third-consecutive-anti-crime-legislative-package

3. “Gov. DeSantis signs law cracking down on hate speech” Heritage Florida Jewish News, 4 May. 2023, https://www.heritagefl.com/story/2023/05/05/news/gov-desantis-signs-law-cracking-down-on-hate-speech/18187.html

4. “IHF calls on other states to follow Florida’s lead and enact legislation combating antisemitism” JNS.org, 2 May. 2023, https://www.jns.org/wire/ihf-calls-on-other-states-to-follow-floridas-lead-and-enact-legislation-combating-antisemitism/

5. “Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey Applauds Gov. Ron DeSantis’ Action on Anti-Crime Legislation Signed in Titusville” SpaceCoastDaily.com, 2 May. 2023, https://spacecoastdaily.com/2023/05/brevard-county-sheriff-wayne-ivey-applauds-gov-ron-desantis-action-on-anti-crime-legislation-signed-in-titusville

6. “DeSantis signs bills tackling fentanyl, cash bail and child rape” Tampa Bay Times, 1 May. 2023, https://www.tampabay.com/news/florida-politics/2023/05/01/desantis-death-penalty-fentanyl-bail-reform-child-rape/

7. “Gov. DeSantis signs crackdowns on cash bail, ‘rainbow’ fentanyl” Florida Politics, 1 May. 2023, https://floridapolitics.com/archives/608638-bail-fentanyl

8. “DeSantis Signs New Death Penalty Bill—Setting Up Possible Supreme Court Clash” Forbes, 2 May. 2023, https://www.forbes.com/sites/siladityaray/2023/05/02/desantis-signs-new-death-penalty-legislation-sets-up-potential-clash-with-supreme-court

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