In Florida, a new law that would allow a person convicted of the rape of a minor to be sentenced to death went into effect earlier this month. The bill, which establishes a minimum sentence of life without parole, was signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis in May.
The law defies the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Kennedy v. Louisiana (2008), which found that “the Eighth Amendment categorically rules out the death penalty in even the most extreme cases of child rape” when “the crime did not result, and was not intended to result, in death of the victim” because it violates the Cruel and Unusual Punishment clause.
DeSantis is betting that the Republican conservative majority on the Supreme Court will overturn Kennedy, a 5-4 decision written for the majority by then-Justice Anthony Kennedy. Three of the four dissenters in Kennedy, Samuel Alito, John Roberts, and Clarence Thomas, are still on the Court and have been joined by conservative justices Amy Coney Barrett, Brett Kavanaugh, and Neil Gorsuch.
This bill came on the heels of another death penalty-expanding bill DeSantis signed in April that allows juries to recommend a death sentence with an 8-4 vote, the lowest threshold in the U.S.