ORLANDO, Fla. — A controversial new state law takes effect this Sunday that would make capital sexual battery offenders eligible for death row.
So far, the U.S. Supreme Court and the Florida Supreme Court have upheld the ban on death sentences for rapists, only allowing those for homicidal crimes. The decision would be voted on by a jury and the person convicted would still have the chance to appeal it in court.
If the court finds the decision unconstitutional, the sentence reverts to life in prison.
“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,” said Fort Myers State Senator Jonathan Martin.
Martin believes protecting children should be a forefront objective to the state. He co-sponsored the newest death penalty law alongside Democratic Senate Minority Leader Lauren Book, who is a victim of child sex assault herself.
“This is a life sentence that is handed down to young children - there is no statute of limitations on their suffering,” said Book.
The new law states someone found guilty of capital sexual battery, which is an individual over 18 who has abused a child under 12, could be on death row. The aggravating factors include the following:
-If the capital felony was especially heinous, atrocious or cruel
-If the person committed the crime for pecuniary gain
-If the victim is particularly vulnerable due to age or disability, or because the defendant stood in a familial or custodial role.
Floridians Against the Death Penalty Executive Director Maria DeLiberato fought against the bill’s passing with a letter to lawmakers, saying “the state of Florida’s resources are much better spent in trying to protect children from abuse in the first place”
She said, considering the current legal precedent, the law won’t hold up in court.
“Their optimism is overrated,” said DeLiberato.
“Not everybody who is convicted of capital sexual battery will get the death penalty, but it’s something that can be used by the state attorney’s office for the most egregious cases,” said Senator Martin.
Eyewitness News reached out to state attorneys across Central Florida about whether they’d pursue the death penalty on this.
“The decision will be a case-by-case determination based on legal aggravating factors in Florida Law,” said Orange and Osceola State Attorney Andrew Bain.
Hillsborough State Attorney Suzy Lopez said she and a team of attorneys from both homicide and sex crime prosecutorial backgrounds will deem which cases are eligible.
“Capital sexual battery charges have always been among the most serious and tragic cases handled by our office,” said Lopez.
Fifth Judicial Circuit State Attorney Bill Gladson’s office said they will follow the law once it goes into effect and seek the death penalty when appropriate.
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