Florida Gov. DeSantis proposes changes to death penalty requirements, other criminal justice reforms

Proposal cracks down on repeat criminals, capital cases and fentanyl crisis

MIAMI, Fla. – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis proposed implementing criminal justice reform efforts statewide Thursday, which include bolstering penalties for drug and sex crimes, easing restrictions on administering the death penalty and preventing the early release of offenders.

The governor, who spoke at the Miami Police Benevolent Association, said these pushes to crack down on crime in Florida only build upon the foundation of safety he’s already begun to set in the last couple of years by rolling out law enforcement recruitment bonuses and working to stop fentanyl trafficking.

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“I think that we’re going to be able to do really, really well coming up with a really strong law and order package,” DeSantis said of the proposed reforms he designed alongside Attorney General Ashley Moody.

DeSantis said he wants the proposal to further improve the state’s “50-year record low crime rate” and increase community safety.

Backlash over the Parkland shooting penalty phase verdict is reaching the highest levels of the state.

The package would harden consequences in capital cases so that matters like the death penalty would be decided by a vast majority or supermajority of the jury, not a unanimous one.

This comes after a divided jury spared Florida school shooter Nikolas Cruz of the death penalty for killing 14 students and three staff members at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14, 2018.

“Remember you had the killer at the Parkland massacre. Obviously he was guilty. Why it took so long to even get to the penalty phase is beyond me,” DeSantis said. “You shouldn’t have it to where if you’re already convicted and you did the crime whether to apply capital. One juror should not be able to veto that. And I don’t think justice was served in that case. If you’re going to have capital, you have to administer it to the worst of the worst crimes.”

DeSantis also hopes the reform will help better tackle the fentanyl epidemic.

“We’re going to make it a first-degree felony to possess sell or manufacture fentanyl or other controlled substances to look like candy and going to add a mandatory life sentence and $1 million penalty if you’re targeting children with this type offense,” he said.

Additionally, Moody added that the law and order package ensures repeat criminals aren’t released from jail prior to a first appearance in court.

“We will not let dangerous offenders get out of jail before they see a judge,” said Moody, adding the plan would also favor a cash bail for nonviolent and violent offenders alike.

Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Mark Glass said that “Keeping Florida’s community safe is the cornerstone” to the state’s success in areas like economic development, tourism and education.

Other measures the governor wants to put in place include petitioning the Florida Supreme Court to establish a uniform bond schedule, requiring convicted child rapists to serve at a minimum life in prison, toughening consequences for sex crimes, requiring local law enforcement to report missing persons to the National Missing and Unidentified Person’s System, and dedicating $5 million in the state budget to continue a strike force.

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About the Author:

Samantha started at WKMG-TV in September 2020. Before joining the News 6 team, Samantha was a political reporter for The Villages Daily Sun and has had freelance work featured in the Evansville Courier-Press and The Community Paper. When not writing, she enjoys travelling and performing improv comedy.