Death Penalty

Florida now has nation’s lowest death-penalty threshold; second bill allows execution of child rapists

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Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Thursday signed a bill that allows juries to recommend capital punishment with an 8-4 vote.

The threshold is lower than the 10-2 majority required in Alabama, the New York Times reports. Indiana and Missouri allow judges to decide on a death sentence when jurors are divided.

Florida Politics also has coverage.

The Florida Supreme Court had required juror unanimity in capital cases in 2016, leading to a 2017 law incorporating the requirement.

But the Florida Supreme Court overturned its 2016 decision in 2020, paving the way for a lower threshold.

The new law was passed after jurors voted 9-3 to recommend the death penalty for Nikolas Cruz, who pleaded guilty to the February 2018 mass shooting that killed 17 people and injured 17 others at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

DeSantis is expected to sign a second death-penalty bill that would also position Florida as an outlier.

The bill allows the death penalty for people who commit sexual battery on children younger than age 12, report Action News Jax and CBS Miami.

Lawmakers hope that the bill will lead the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a 2008 decision that held that the death penalty for child rape is unconstitutional. Justice Samuel Alito had dissented in that case, joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia, who was replaced after his death by Justice Neil Gorsuch.

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