Florida Lawmakers Consider Death Penalty for Child Sexual Assault Despite Constitutional Concerns

Florida lawmakers are considering a proposal that would allow the death penalty for people who sexually assault children under age 12, despite court rulings that say it would be unconstitutional.[0] The bills would allow defendants to receive death sentences based on the recommendations of at least eight of 12 jurors, and judges would have discretion to impose the death penalty or sentence defendants to life in prison. Defendants would be sentenced to life imprisonment if less than eight jurors suggest the death penalty. The proposal has faced pushback from critics who argue that it would create a longer, costlier legal process for victims and their families.[1]

At present, judges can only impose the death penalty in murder cases if the jury recommendation is unanimous.[1] But lawmakers are also poised to change that requirement to allow death sentences after recommendations from eight of 12 jurors. Such a change has already been passed by the Senate, and the House will consider it on Thursday.[1] The Florida Supreme Court and U.S. Supreme Court’s conservative shifts in recent years have emboldened the Legislature controlled by Republicans.

However, at least in part, the The Florida Supreme Court and U.S. Supreme Court’s conservative shifts in recent years have emboldened the Legislature controlled by Republicans. The bill sponsor is State Senator Jonathan Martin.[1] During committee meetings, there have been Democrats and individuals who are against the death penalty who have pointed out Florida’s concerning track record with regards to capital punishment.[2] According to the Death Penalty Information Center, Florida has the highest number of death row exonerations in the nation, with a total of 30.[2]

The imposition of the death penalty also puts innocent lives at risk.[3] The state of Florida has a notorious reputation for mishandling death penalty cases, resulting in the release of 30 men from death row due to evidence of their wrongful convictions.[3] Limiting the protections in death penalty cases as proposed by the Governor would only raise the chances of innocent individuals being executed.[3]

Lauren Book, a Democrat from Plantation and Senate Minority Leader who experienced sexual abuse as a child, stated that the pain of victims has no time limit.[4] Book stated that young children are given a life sentence.[1] This bill concerns the most vulnerable and innocent children. As someone who was once in their shoes, I can attest that the traumatic effects of this crime linger even at my current age of 38. It’s a constant struggle that never truly disappears, and there are moments when the memories are so vivid that it feels like there’s no escape. Unfortunately, there’s nothing I can do to make it all go away.[4]

Critics have pointed out that the death penalty is an ineffective deterrent to crime, and that there is no evidence to suggest that it would reduce the incidence of sexual assault against children. Instead, they argue that the focus should be on prevention, early intervention, and rehabilitation for offenders.

In the end, the decision to impose the death penalty is a moral and ethical one that must take into account the values of society, as well as the rights of victims and defendants. While some may argue that the death penalty is a just punishment for heinous crimes, others may question its effectiveness, fairness, and morality. Ultimately, the decision to impose the death penalty should be made with great care and consideration, and only after a thorough examination of the facts, the law, and the values of society.

0. “Death penalty allowed for people who sexually abuse children under 12 in new state proposal” WCJB, 11 Apr. 2023, https://www.wcjb.com/2023/04/11/death-penalty-allowed-people-who-sexually-abuse-children-below-12-under-new-state-proposal/

1. “Florida lawmakers pursue death penalty in child rapes” CBS Miami, 11 Apr. 2023, https://www.cbsnews.com/miami/news/florida-lawmakers-pursue-death-penalty-in-child-rapes/

2. “FL death row exoneree opposes death penalty measure – more innocent people will go to death row” Florida Phoenix, 3 Apr. 2023, https://floridaphoenix.com/2023/04/03/fl-death-row-exoneree-opposes-death-penalty-measure-more-innocent-people-will-go-to-death-row

3. “Governor DeSantis: I’m a Big Fan. But You’re Wrong About the Death Penalty | Opinion” Newsweek, 10 Apr. 2023, https://www.newsweek.com/governor-desantis-im-big-fan-youre-wrong-about-death-penalty-opinion-1793455

4. “Florida lawmakers pursue death penalty in child rapes” Yahoo! Voices, 11 Apr. 2023, https://www.yahoo.com/news/florida-lawmakers-pursue-death-penalty-214713296.html

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