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DeSantis signs bill making child rapists eligible for death penalty at odds with US Supreme Court ruling

<i>Malcolm Denemark/Florida Today/USA Today Network</i><br/>Gov. Ron DeSantis signs three bills in Titusville
Malcolm Denemark/Florida Today/USA Today Network
Gov. Ron DeSantis signs three bills in Titusville

By Kit Maher, CNN

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday signed three “anti-crime” bills into law, one of which would make child rapists eligible for the death penalty with the minimum sentence of life in prison without parole.

“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 Republican governor said at a news conference in Titusville, Florida.

This bill runs afoul of a 2008 US Supreme Court decision prohibiting states from applying the death penalty for child rape if the victim did not die. The high court ruled in Kennedy v. Louisiana that the Louisiana statute imposing the death penalty for the rape of a child was unconstitutional under the Eighth Amendment’s Cruel and Unusual Punishment clause.

“As it relates to crimes against individuals, though, the death penalty should not be expanded to instances where the victim’s life was not taken,” then-US Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the majority ruling.

The action from DeSantis comes as the Florida Legislature’s 60-day session draws to an end this week. In the state’s capital of Tallahassee, GOP lawmakers have been tasked with helping DeSantis rack up policy victories as he nears a run for president in 2024, and he has already signed several high-profile bills, including an abortion ban, a measure to allow Floridians to carry concealed guns in public and an overhaul of the state’s tort laws.

“In Florida, we stand for the protection of children,” DeSantis said. “Unfortunately, in our society, you have very heinous sex crimes that are committed against children under the age of 12 years old.”

“The perpetrators of these crimes are oftentimes serial offenders,” the governor added. “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.”

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