Ron DeSantis Signs Bill Making It Easier To Execute Criminals

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Arjun Singh Contributor
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Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida signed legislation Thursday that loosened the requirement for a convicted felon to be sentenced to death.

The legislation, known as Senate Bill 450, enables those convicted of capital crimes to be sentenced to death without the unanimous consent of jurors. Previously, Florida law required that all 12 members of a capital jury vote for a sentence of death, or else it could not be imposed.

Bill 450 was passed by the legislature in wake of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in 2018, which killed 17 people, many of them students. The shooter, Nikolas Cruz, pled guilty to 17 counts of murder and attempted murder, respectively, but was not sentenced to death after three jurors voted against the sentence.

Florida Senate Bill 450 by Daily Caller News Foundation on Scribd

Cruz’s defense team had presented evidence that he was allegedly mentally ill, having suffered from Fetal Alcohol Syndrome due to his mother’s consumption of cocaine and alcohol while she was pregnant with him, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, a watchdog group. Cruz’s sentence, life in prison without the possibility of parole, was strongly criticized by the families of victims, many of whom were in tears after its reading, according to The New York Times.

“Justice was not served today,” said Scott Biegel, a teacher at the high school who sheltered students during the shooting.

Ilhan Alhadeff, whose 14-year-old daughter was killed by Cruz, told the NYT that “if not for the Parkland shooter, what do we have the death penalty for?”

Bill 450, introduced in the legislature at DeSantis’s urging, requires that jurors must unanimously vote to find “aggravating factor[s]” in the crime, but reduces the death sentencing requirement to a two-thirds majority of eight jurors. Had it been in force at the time of Cruz’s sentencing, he would have received the death penalty, with nine jurors voting in favor.

“One juror should not be able to veto a death sentence,” DeSantis tweeted after signing the bill.

The bill’s signing into law follows another measure by Florida’s legislature regarding the death penalty. House Bill 1297, which creates a death sentence for crimes involving the sexual abuse of children under age 12, was passed by both chambers on April 18.

That law, however, is likely to face constitutional hurdles. In Kennedy v. Louisiana, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that imposing the death penalty for child sexual abuse, where the child does not die from the abuse, is “cruel and unusual punishment” per the Eighth Amendment and, hence, unconstitutional.

DeSantis’s office referred The Daily Caller News Foundation to a press release when contacted for a comment.

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