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Florida Bill Would Expand the Death Penalty

A proposed bill gains traction in the Senate, hoping to strike unanimity requirements in death penalty decisions.

TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA — Senator Blaise Ingoglia (R-Spring Hill) started off Florida’s legislative session with a bang, taking SB 450 to the Senate Criminal Justice Committee in the first step toward expanding Florida’s death penalty.

SB 450 would decrease the number of jurors required to recommend the death penalty from a unanimous 12 to a supermajority of 8.

This proposed legislation comes in the wake of 3 jurors voting against the death penalty for Parkland shooter Nikolas Cruz, resulting in a life-in-prison sentence and subsequent backlash for what many considered an unexacting punishment.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis criticized the verdict: “We can’t be in a situation where one person can just derail this”, he declared, responding to one of the hard-no, “idiosyncratic” jurors on the Cruz case.

Ingoglia’s bill garnered bipartisan support, with Senator Jason Pizzo (D-Hollywood) ultimately voting in favor of the legislation: asserting that if someone murdered his child, “I would kill them myself.”

Not all are in favor of looser death penalty requirements, as Richard Dieter, the Executive Director of the Death Penalty Information Center, told the Florida Standard.

“This just feels like a political gesture rather than a sincere way of dealing with crime.” Dieter postulated. “There’s been a great expansion of death penalty talk as the 2024 election approaches,” he said, referring to Senator Jonathan Martin (R-Fort Myers) and Representative Jessica Baker’s (R-Jacksonville) nearly identical bills that would permit the death penalty for child rapists.

In Florida’s House of Representatives, Representative Berny Jacques (R-Clearwater) filed the identical bill HB 555, set for committee on March 7, lending a strong upper-hand to the legislation’s passing of Florida’s 60-day session.

SB 450 now advances to the Judiciary Committee.