DeSantis invites Supreme Court showdown with bill to expand death penalty in Florida

Tallahassee, Florida - Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill on Monday that would expand the crimes punishable by death to include sexual battery against children younger than 12.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is seeking to expand the crimes punishable by death in the state to include sexual battery against children younger than 12.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is seeking to expand the crimes punishable by death in the state to include sexual battery against children younger than 12.  © Maya Alleruzzo / POOL / AFP

The legislation, HB 1297, requires a minimum sentence of life in prison without parole for cases of sexual battery against children, but could include the death penalty in some cases.

The new law, set to take effect in October, stands in direct violation of the 2008 Kennedy v. Louisiana US Supreme Court decision, which deemed it unconstitutional for states to impose death sentences for crimes other than murder.

"The death penalty should not be expanded to instances where the victim's life was not taken," justices said in their majority opinion.

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In a press release, DeSantis' office has indicated the governor is "prepared to take this law all the way to the US Supreme Court" to challenge previous rulings.

Ron DeSantis claims he is protecting children

DeSantis has cast his bill as a means of ensuring "law and order" in Florida.

"We think that in the worst of the worst cases, the only appropriate punishment is the ultimate punishment, and so this bill sets up a procedure to be able to challenge that precedent," the governor said at an event in Titusville. "In Florida, we stand for the protection of children."

The news comes after DeSantis signed a bill in April allowing death sentences to be issued with an 8-4 jury vote rather than a unanimous decision.

Cover photo: Maya Alleruzzo / POOL / AFP

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