RedState – Florida lawmakers are poised to pass a measure that would permit the death penalty for pedophiles who sexually assault children under 12 years old, a move that will likely trigger legal challenges and questions about its constitutionality.
The House will consider its version of the bill (HB 1297) on Thursday, while the Senate version (SB 1342) was cleared by the Rules Committee on Tuesday, paving the way for it to be presented to the full Senate.
The proposed legislation goes against decades of U.S. Supreme Court and Florida Supreme Court rulings that have prohibited the execution of defendants in rape and sexual abuse cases. According to a Senate staff analysis, the last time someone was put to death for a non-murder offense in the United States was in 1964.
In a rebuke of legal precedent, the House and Senate bills argue that a 1981 Florida Supreme Court case and a 2008 U.S. Supreme Court case were “wrongly decided,” with the Senate version declaring said cases represent an “egregious infringement of the states’ power to punish the most heinous of crimes.”
Jonathan Martin, a former prosecutor turned Republican state senator who is sponsoring the bill, said the legislation would allow for “constitutional boundaries by providing a sentencing procedure for those heinous crimes.”
“If an individual rapes an 11-year-old, a 10-year-old, a 2-year-old or a 5-year-old, they should be subject to the death penalty,” Martin said Tuesday after the Rules Committee approved the bill.
The legislation inevitably has drawn criticism, with Aaron Wyat of the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers pointing out that although people want “vengeance” against pedophiles, the death penalty would represent an overturning of decades of legal precedent.
“This bill invites a longer, costlier (legal) process for the victim and their family that they will endure,” Wayt said. “While this crime, anyone convicted of it is vile, heinous, the Constitution itself, the case law, the Supreme Court demands a maximum of life in prison … ” READ MORE.