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Florida Death Penalty now 8-4

Governor Ron DeSantis signed SB 450 last Thursday. -Photo: Governor’s Press Office

By Tami Stevenson

In the wake of the verdict from the 2018 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre in Parkland, Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis was joined by parents of the victims of the Parkland mass murder to sign a new death penalty bill, SB 450, last Thursday, April 20, 2023. The bill reduces the number of jurors needed to administer capital punishment from unanimous to a supermajority of eight out of twelve.

The verdict handed down last October for the Parkland massacre, the deadliest mass shooting to reach a jury trial in the U.S., where the gunman killed 17 people, caused outrage when a divided 9-3 jury gave him life in prison instead of the death penalty.

“Once a defendant in a capital case is found guilty by a unanimous jury, one juror should not be able to veto a capital sentence,” said Governor Ron DeSantis. “I’m proud to sign legislation that will prevent families from having to endure what the Parkland families have and ensure proper justice will be served in the state of Florida.”

“Florida will no longer allow a small handful of activist jurors to derail the full administration of justice when individuals are found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt and meet the qualifications for the death penalty,” said Representative Bernie Jacques.

On the day of the bill’s signing, Ryan Petty, whose teen-aged child, Alaina, was killed during the massacre said, “A few months ago, we endured another tragic failure of the justice system. Today’s change in Florida law will hopefully save other families from the injustices we have suffered. I’d like to thank Governor DeSantis and the Florida Legislature for this important legislation.”

“This bill is about victims’ rights, plain and simple. It allows the victims of heinous crimes a chance to get justice and have the perpetrators punished to the full extent of the law,” said Tony Montalto, father of Gina. “Thank you to everyone who worked so hard on this bill.”
The new law went into effect the day the bill was signed.