In a significant legislative move, Florida's lawmakers have given their approval to a bill that would allow the imposition of the death penalty for individuals found guilty of sexually abusing children under the age of 12.
The legislation, which has the support of Governor Ron DeSantis, secured a bipartisan majority vote of 34-5 in the Senate late Tuesday, following its passage in the Florida House of Representatives last week with a 95-14 majority.
The bill also includes a provision that would enable juries to impose capital punishment with a minimum vote of 8-4, a departure from the previous unanimity requirement.
DeSantis has expressed his strong belief that the death penalty is the only fitting punishment for those who repeatedly abuse young children.
Co-sponsors of the bill, State Senate Minority Leader Lauren Book (D-Davie) and State Senator Jonathan Martin (R-Fort Myers), have also argued that individuals who sexually assault children are highly likely to reoffend, thus making the ultimate penalty necessary.
Book has emphasized that executing offenders would prevent them from victimizing more children, noting the compulsive and repetitive nature of pedophilic behavior.
However, the bill has met with opposition from lawmakers like State Senator Rosalind Osgood (D-Broward), who voted against it.
While Osgood acknowledged the gravity of sexual crimes against children, she expressed her personal struggle with the death penalty due to her religious convictions.
Additionally, the legislation appears to be in conflict with the 2008 Supreme Court ruling in Kennedy v. Louisiana, which prohibited the use of the death penalty for child rapists or crimes where the victim did not die.
Nevertheless, Governor DeSantis has indicated that the current Supreme Court, comprising six conservatives and three liberals, may be open to revisiting that decision.
The debate over the death penalty in Florida came to the forefront last year after the jury in the Parkland school shooting trial spared the shooter, Nikolas Cruz, from execution, sentencing him to life imprisonment instead.
Governor DeSantis has since urged those who oppose capital punishment to seek changes to state laws through the democratic process, rather than serving on a jury and "nullifying capital punishment."