TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA — A bipartisan bill that would elevate child rape to a death penalty offense passed the Florida Legislature after a rocky back-and-forth.
SB 1342 – co-introduced by Senate Minority Leader Lauren Book (D-Davie) and Sen. Jonathan Martin (R-Fort Myers) – allows for the execution of pedophiles who rape children under the age of 12. The legislation permits a supermajority of eight jurors to recommend death, defying the current precedent for unanimous jury recommendations.
“Once a predator has a child ensnared they will harm that child over and over again, and then move on to another innocent child,” Sen. Book said, “They’re called predators for a reason, because they stalk and hunt down their prey.”
Sen. Martin echoed his co-sponsor, explaining that most children who are raped are raped by family or friends, thus leaving a miniscule chance for cases of mistaken identity. “There’s no misidentification. These are people that the victims know.”
The Democrats were divided over the legislation, with Sen. Rosalind Osgood (D-Broward) citing her religious beliefs: “It challenges me when it comes to my faith; it puts me at a quandary.”
Senators Jason Pizzo (D-Hollywood) and Book disagreed with their colleague: “There is nothing more heinous that touching and abusing a child,” Sen. Pizzo stated. “Anyone who is enticed to touch a child cannot be rehabilitated.”
“Don’t let our children become casualties of predators who are hardwired to offend again and again and again until there is nothing left,” Sen. Book said, referencing her own story of sexual abuse. “I am asking for your vote. I am asking you for the parts of me that were killed when I was little.”
TOUGHEST STATE IN THE NATION
This is not the only death penalty legislation moving through the Florida legislature: SB 450–which has passed both chambers and is on its way to the governor’s desk – changes all Florida death penalty recommendations to a supermajority jury decision, rescinding the unanimity precedent. These two pieces of legislation are working in tandem to make Florida the toughest death penalty state in the nation.
SB 1342, which already passed the House, secured a 34–5 favorability vote, with three Democrats and two Republicans voting no. The legislation will advance to the governor to be officially signed into law.