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DeSantis to sign bill lowering death penalty threshold; 'Only appropriate punishment' for child rapists
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DeSantis to sign bill lowering death penalty threshold; 'Only appropriate punishment' for child rapists

Florida's Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, is expected to sign a bill allowing the death penalty with an 8-4 jury vote rather than requiring a unanimous vote, Politico reported Monday.

"What happened with the Parkland case ... You had one juror that held out," DeSantis said Monday morning in an interview with Simon Conway on WFLA's "Good Morning Orlando."

DeSantis was responding to the host's question about a bill heading to his desk that would change the number of jurors required to recommend a death penalty. The current requirement is for a unanimous vote. Once DeSantis signs SB 280, the requirement will be a 2/3 vote, or 8 to 4 on a 12-person jury.

The bill would reverse a 2017 law requiring jurors' unanimity in capital cases.

"I think we're doing it fair. What we're doing is what Florida law used to be. Our old, liberal Supreme Court struck that down. Our current Supreme Court, which is conservative, overruled that precedent. So all we're doing is basically returning to what Florida had done historically," DeSantis said.

The Sunshine State governor went on to explain his objection to a single juror having the power to nullify a death sentence decision. He focused specifically, as he has in the past, on the case of the Parkland shooter.

DeSantis took office the year after the 2018 Parkland massacre took the lives of 17 students and staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Instead of describing the effect of the bill as "lowering the threshold" for the imposition of capital punishment, he described it as "protection against ... nullification."

He went on to explain that though prosecutors are entitled to get a "death-qualified jury," meaning that each juror says he or she is willing to vote to administer capital punishment under the right circumstances, there is always a chance that a juror will slip through who has no intention of doing so under any circumstance.

"You have people that, you know, bring an agenda to bear, and they're willing to get on that jury and do that," he said.

"If you don't support capital punishment, I respect that. But the way to deal with that is to try to get the laws changed in the state through the democratic process. It's not to be on a jury and to nullify capital punishment."

"In Parkland, [capital punishment] was the only appropriate punishment. Now, [the Parkland shooter] is going to be in prison the rest of his life. It's going to cost the taxpayers a fortune, for 60, 70 years, potentially. And that's not really justice for the families."

In addition to his comments on the bill changing the threshold for capital punishment, DeSantis also signaled his support for a separate measure that would authorize the death penalty for people convicted of raping children.

"We are authorizing the death penalty for child rapists, which is cutting against recent Supreme Court precedent, but I think we're right on the law and I think the current court would consider a challenge to that," Gov. DeSantis said.

"My view is, you have some of these people that will be serial rapists of six-, seven-year old kids. I think the death penalty is the only appropriate punishment when you have situations like that."

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