Ron DeSantis Speaks To Huge Campaign Rally Crowd, Calls For Death Penalty Reform

During a Keep America Free Rally campaign stop on Sunday at The Villages in Coral Springs, Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) spoke to an enthusiastic standing-room-only crowd. He proclaimed that the Sunshine State should lead the way nationally on education reform and excellence, combatting leftist “woke” ideology, and called for changes to the state’s death penalty laws after the sentencing in the Parkland mass shooting case.

He described the result of the Parkland sentencing a “miscarriage of justice.” Florida state law was changed in 2017 to require a unanimous jury to recommend the death penalty in any case. The governor said he would like to see the legislature change the law again, potentially going back to a majority verdict requirement.

Many observers had expected that the sentencing following the mass murder of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas Senior High School in 2018 would easily result in a unanimous death penalty recommendation.

As it turned out, the jury split nine to three, with the majority voting for the death penalty. The three no votes takes the death penalty out of the equation for defendant Nikolas Cruz. He pleaded guilty to the murder charges before the sentencing trial. The jury was empaneled for the sole purpose of deciding if the death penalty is appropriate in the case.

Many of the family members of Cruz’s victims were outraged by the verdict. The jury deliberated for seven hours before returning its verdict, and the emotional toll on all involved was heavy.

Juror Andrew Johnson voted for the death penalty and told reporters afterward that he asked that the murder weapon be brought into the jury room during deliberations in a final attempt to argue for the death penalty to the three jurors who ended up sticking with their decisions to vote for life in prison.

The defense attorneys had argued during the hearing that Cruz was challenged with developmental issues and fetal alcohol syndrome. One juror reportedly said after the hearing that she could not sentence someone she thought to “be mentally ill to death.”

DeSantis is campaigning for reelection as governor in next month’s general election. He is facing off with Democratic opponent Charlie Crist. The latest RealClearPolitics polling average shows DeSantis is leading Crist by 7.8 percentage points, 49.8% to 42.0%.