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A Florida Senate committee gave the green light for that chamber to debate a bipartisan bill that seeks to make sex offenders of children under the age of 12 eligible for the death penalty, contrary to Supreme Court doctrine.
In addition to this bill, introduced by Republican Senator Jonathan Martin and Senate Democratic Leader Lauren Book and approved unanimously in committee on Monday, a similar proposal is pending in the Florida House of Representatives by Representative Jessica Baker, a Republican.
Both bills state that a jury could recommend to a judge the death penalty for sex offenders against children under the age of 12 if eight of its 12 members voted in favor.
If less than eight, life imprisonment without parole would be imposed.
The initiative raises aggravating factors such as the use of a firearm, if the aggressor is a paroled offender and if the victim is especially vulnerable due to a disability.
In the argumentation of the Senate bill, its promoters point out that a Supreme Court ruling that rejected the possibility of punishing child rapists with execution is “wrong” and does not respect the autonomy of the states “to punish the most heinous crimes.”
The Florida Supreme Court also rejected the death penalty for child sex offenders in a 1981 ruling.
The bill also goes against another Supreme Court doctrine that states that the death penalty is only applicable to a convicted person if there is a unanimous jury vote to that effect.
Florida’s governor, Republican Ron DeSantis, who was re-elected in 2022 by a large majority and has given signals that he will run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024, is in favor of changing that requirement of jury unanimity to a majority.
There is already a bill filed in the Florida Congress, where the Republican Party dominates both houses, to carry out this legal change.
The Democratic leader of the Florida Senate, Lauren Book, who is promoting the child rapist bill, was a victim of sexual abuse in her childhood and is in charge of an organization dedicated to this problem.
Cover source: Facebook Jonathan Martin.