Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed legislation on Monday that would allow people convicted of raping children under age 12 to be sentenced to death in the state.
The new law, however, could at some point be challenged. In 2008, the Supreme Court ruled in Kennedy vs. Louisiana that states cannot impose the death penalty when the victim is not killed.
The Florida law states that a defendant is eligible for the death penalty if a jury unanimously finds two or more aggravating factors in the crime. The law lays out a number of aggravating factors, including whether the assault was especially heinous, atrocious or cruel.
“Unfortunately in our society, you have very heinous sex crimes committed against children under the age of 12 years old, and these are really the worst of the worst,” DeSantis said. “The perpetrators in these crimes are often serial offenders.”
If the jury unanimously finds at least two aggravating factors without any mitigating factors, a minimum of eight jurors are needed for a death penalty sentence.
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The bill had strong bipartisan support in the Florida legislature. It passed the Senate by a 34-5 margin after being approved by the House by a 95-14 ledger.
In signing the bill, DeSantis recognized that the bill challenges a Supreme Court precedent.
“We think that decision was wrong,” he said. “We think in the worst of the worst cases, the only appropriate punishment is the ultimate punishment.”
The law goes into effect Oct. 1.
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