The 2024 Republican primary for president is going to brutal.
The current frontrunner, Donald Trump, has a penchant for executing people and, as Rolling Stone reported on Tuesday, is pushing to bring back firing squads and publicly broadcast executions. The only candidate who currently seems to have a reasonable chance at dethroning the former president, Ron DeSantis, wants in on the action.
During a press conference on Tuesday, the Florida governor promised to rework the state’s capital punishment procedure in order to make it easily to sentence people to death. “We’re going to reform the capital sentencing procedure in Florida,” DeSantis said. “Of course, to be convicted of a crime, you need a unanimous jury. But Nikolas Cruz was somebody everyone knew was guilty, and he’s entitled to process, but he admitted it, right?”
DeSantis was responding to a question about whether the state had done enough to make schools safer following the shooting at Parkland High School, where Nikolas Cruz killed 17 people five years ago on Tuesday. Cruz pleaded guilty to all 17 counts of murder and last November was sentenced to life in prison without parole.
“So then they go for the penalty phase, you kill 17 people, what other penalty can you get other than the ultimate penalty?” DeSantis continued on Tuesday. “And yet, you have one holdout that can nullify that. That was not the law in Florida for most of the time. The Supreme Court changed it. Now, our more recent court changed it back. So, what we’re going to say is, you can’t have just like one or two holdouts deny justice.”
DeSantis has been pushing to make the death penalty easier to hand down since Cruz’s sentence last fall, and Republicans in the Florida legislature earlier this month introduced a bill that would allow judges to override juries and impose it themselves. Maria DeLiberato, executive director of Floridians For Alternatives to the Death Penalty, told the Tampa Bay Times that if the bill passes Florida would have “the most extreme death penalty statute in the country.”
Trump has long been publicly fantasizing about executing people, and while he was in office his administration imposed new rules that would make forms of execution outside of lethal injection more feasible. The administration never applied the rule, however, and all 13 Trump-era executions were doing through lethal injection. Former Attorney General Bill Barr told Rolling Stone that if Trump had won reelection, more people would have been put to death.
DeSantis has yet to announce his 2024 candidacy, but he’s widely expected to enter the race. Given how ugly things have already gotten between him and Trump, it wouldn’t be surprising if the two wind up battling over who has the most inhumane, bloodthirsty view of the criminal justice system.