Politics /

DeSantis Signs Bill Legalizing Death Penalty For Child Rape, Defying Supreme Court Precedent

Florida officials are prepared to take the case to the U.S. Supreme Court with the hope that the 6-3 conservative majority will overturn prior rulings

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has signed into law new legislation that would make child rape a capital offense.

Under House Bill 1297, a person 18 years of age or older who is found guilty of sexual battery against a person less than age 12 would be able to be punished with execution.

“In Florida, we stand for the protection of children,” DeSantis said at a press conference the day the law was signed. “We think that in the worst of the worst cases the only appropriate punishment is the ultimate punishment.”

State officials face a steep legal hurdle, as the U.S. Supreme Court has barred states from imposing the death penalty in child rape cases.

In 2008, the Court issued a ruling in Kennedy v. Louisiana, holding that “the Eighth Amendment prohibits the death penalty for this offense,” while calling an identical law passed by Louisiana officials “unconstitutional.”

The governor’s office said in a statement that DeSantis is “prepared to take this law all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court to overrule judicial precedents which have unjustly shielded child rapists from the death penalty and denied victims and their loved ones the opportunity to pursue ultimate justice against these most heinous criminals.”

Previously, DeSantis argued that the current Supreme Court bench with a 6-3 conservative majority may be more willing to overturn the 2008 ruling and pave the way for executions of child rapists.

Florida’s law allows the death penalty to be recommended if a 12-person jury votes for the sentencing recommendation by at least an 8-4 margin.

USA Today quoted Aaron Wayt, who represents the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, who spoke against the bill.

“Courtrooms must be a place for justice, and not vengeance,” he said.

Wayt also told a committee prior to the bill’s passage that it “invites a longer, costlier process that the victim and their family will endure.”

The ACLU of Florida issued a brief statement on Twitter, saying, “The death penalty is a racist relic of the Jim Crow South, and should stay in the past.”

The Death Penalty Information Center published a report that found misconduct was a factor in more than 78 percent of cases where a black defendant was exonerated. The group also found that 67 percent of exoneration cases have included a false accusation, and that false or misleading forensic evidence was present in nearly a third of exoneration cases.

*For corrections please email [email protected]*