On Monday, the Republican Governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis, signed a bill that permits the use of the death penalty for individuals convicted of sexually abusing children. The new legislation, effective from October 1, enables Florida to pursue capital punishment when an adult is found guilty of sexual battery of a child under 12 years old.
Although the Republican party holds a majority in the Florida Legislature, the bill was introduced by a Democrat and gained bipartisan support. Despite a 2008 US Supreme Court ruling that deemed the use of the death penalty unconstitutional for non-murder crimes, DeSantis approved the bill, setting the stage for a potential conflict at the high court.
“We’re really delivering a big agenda. So this is one important — but admittedly very small part — of an overall large agenda and very bold agenda that’s really setting the terms of the debate for the country, quite frankly. 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,” DeSantis told “Good Morning Orlando”
During his second term as governor, DeSantis has introduced and signed a series of strict crime-related measures. The new law is one of these measures. In addition, last month, the governor passed legislation that eliminated the requirement for a unanimous jury decision in death penalty cases, enabling capital punishment if a jury vote is at least 8-4 in favor of execution.
DeSantis also authorized a bill that toughens criminal penalties for selling “rainbow fentanyl,” lethal drugs disguised as sweets. Following the end of Florida’s legislative session on Friday, DeSantis is expected to launch a presidential campaign in 2024, given his campaign funds of over $110 million, which are double the size of those of the leading GOP contender, former President Donald Trump.
Last week, Florida lawmakers passed an election reform bill that would permit DeSantis to run for the presidency without resigning his governorship.