USA: Florida approves bill allowing capital punishment for child rapists
Lawmakers in the US state of Florida have approved a legislation that permits death penalty for those convicted of sexually abusing minors. The bill, backed by Republican Governor Ron DeSantis was passed by a 34-5 vote in the Senate. Notably, the dissenting votes came from three Democrat and two Republican leaders respectively.
The bill, once turned into law will allow juries to hand out death sentences by votes of at least 8-4, after previously requiring a unanimous decision. If fewer than eight jury members recommend the death penalty, the convict would receive life sentence(s).
The bill was passed last week in the Florida House of Representatives 95-14 and now only requires DeSantis' signature. It would apply to those convicted of abusing a child under the age of 12.
“My view is, you have some of these people that will be serial rapists of six, seven-year-old kids. I think the death penalty is the only appropriate punishment when you have situations like that," said DeSantis after passing of the legislation.
It was a bipartisan bill, co-sponsored by State Senate Minority Leader Lauren Book (D-Davie) and State Sen. Jonathan Martin (R-Fort Myers). They argued that paedophiles were more likely to repeat their crimes and thus deserved the death penalty.
“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," said Book.
"There is no statute of limitations on this crime (for victims). There is no end. It's always with you."
Lawmakers hope to change US Supreme Court's decision
The lawmakers are hoping that the passing of the bill will ultimately lead to the US Supreme Court reversing its 2008 decision the barred capital punishment for those who raped children. The bill even mentions that the 2008 US Supreme Court decision, in a case known as Kennedy v. Louisiana, was "wrongly decided."
"We have a completely different (US) Supreme Court makeup. We have a completely different Florida Supreme Court makeup than when Kennedy v. Louisiana was issued. I know everybody in this room hopes that nobody is put to death for this crime. Because if someone is put to death for this crime, it means that a poor innocent child was raped," said Martin.
With the apex court consisting of six conservative and three liberal judges, the Republicans are hopeful that the decision will be overturned sometime soon.