A Florida law that took effect this week sets its sights on both child rapists and a Supreme Court ruling that bars states from executing child rapists when the victim survives.
DeSantis, now a Republican presidential candidate, said at the time the bill was signed that he was seeking a confrontation with the 2008 Supreme Court ruling that banned executions for child rape when the victim survived.
“We think that decision was wrong,” he said, according to USA Today.
Since 2008, the makeup of the court has changed. Several recent rulings on issues such as abortion and gun control have indicated a conservative majority could shift existing precedents.
“This bill sets up a procedure to be able to challenge that precedent and to be able to say that, in Florida, we think that the worst of the worst crimes deserve the worst of the worst punishment,” the governor said in May, according to The Associated Press.
If the law is applied in a child rape case, its use could be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court through the Florida Supreme Court.
The law gives the judge discretion to impose the sentence if at least eight members of a jury vote for the death penalty, according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
“We really believe that part of a just society is to have appropriate punishment. And so, if you commit a crime that is really, really heinous, you should have the ultimate punishment,” he said.
DeSantis heralded the new law in a social media post on Tuesday.
“Florida’s law allowing the death penalty for child rapists is now in effect,” he said.
“The minimum sentence is life in prison without parole,” the governor said. “In Florida, anyone who harms children in such a horrific way will never walk free.”
Florida’s law allowing the death penalty for child rapists is now in effect.
The minimum sentence is life in prison without parole. In Florida, anyone who harms children in such a horrific way will never walk free.
— Ron DeSantis (@GovRonDeSantis) October 3, 2023
But critics say the Florida law runs afoul of the 2008 Supreme Court ruling in Kennedy v. Louisiana that struck down a similar law. The decision invoked the Eighth Amendment’s ban on “cruel and unusual punishments.”
The Supreme Court ruled in Kennedy v. Louisiana that the death penalty is not an appropriate punishment for child rape. This new law will undoubtedly be challenged, as it violated the Kennedy decision.
Florida should be fixing its death penalty, not further complicating it.
— Suzuki Nathie (@SkoczSteven) October 4, 2023
Maria DeLiberato, executive director of Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, said although the law is on the books, it will not impact anyone immediately, according to WJXT.
“The legislature, to their credit, acknowledged that when they passed it right, they said, ‘We know this isn’t the law, we just hope the law will get change,'” she said.
DeLiberato claimed victims could be scarred by the new law.
“You’re also dealing with a living victim who would have to be a part of the inevitable decades-long death penalty process. A death penalty case is not quick. It doesn’t go away quickly. It languishes for years and years and years,” she said.
— FADP (@FADPorg) October 1, 2023
Noting that statistics show child sexual abuse usually involves abusers who are known to a child and quite often are family members, DeLiberato said the web of relationships adds another dimension of complexity to a death penalty case.
“So now, you’ve got this whole dynamic where a child is going to bear the weight of a possible death sentence to a neighbor, an uncle, grandfather, something that someone that they know that everybody in their family is not going to feel the exact same way about,” she said.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.