Florida lawmakers approved two bills this week that would allow for the execution of child rapists.
The Florida House passed HB1297, a bill that allows for the death penalty for rapists of children under the age of 12 without jury unanimity, by a 95-14 vote on late Thursday.
The proposed measure, sponsored by Rep. Jessica Baker, R – Fl., would require the vote of only 8 jurors out of 12 in order to approve capital punishment for people who commit sexual battery on children.
If fewer than eight jurors recommend the death penalty, defendants would be sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.
The Senate is slated to vote on its version of the bill, SB 1342, on Tuesday.
The legislation would change the precedent that requires unanimous verdicts for executions and would make Florida the fourth state to not require jury unanimity.
The Florida House passes a bill enacting death penalty for child rape pic.twitter.com/spZxEEScOu
— Citizen Free Press (@CitizenFreePres) April 14, 2023
The proposed measures follow longstanding US Supreme Court and Florida Supreme Court rulings that outlaw the execution of defendants in rape cases, including a 2008 US Supreme Court decision in a Louisana case.
Rep. Baker said she hopes the bill will provoke the US Supreme Court to reconsider its stance on the issue and permit the execution of defendants found guilty of child rape.
“The rape of a child is a deliberate, methodical act,” she said. “It doesn’t happen accidentally.”
Sen. Lauren Book, a survivor of child sexual assault, detailed her struggle with the trauma she endured decades ago during a passionate speech during Thursday’s committee hearing.
“There is no statute of limitations that a victim suffers. This is a life sentence that is handed down to young children,” Book said. “We’re talking about the youngest of the young in this bill. I was one of those kids.”
The measure is headed now headed to the full Senate.
Florida will have the lowest death penalty threshold in the nation upon Gov. Ron DeSantis’ signature of the legislation.
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