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Rick Scott's 'automatic death penalty' for school shooters is illegal

"Automatic death penalty" is not a legal thing these days. The junior senator from Florida should know that.


Unwilling to tackle the things that school shooters use to shoot up schools — namely, guns — Republicans instead propose ideas that are ineffective, illegal or both.

Behold Rick Scott, the GOP junior senator from Florida. After Monday’s school shooting in Nashville, Tennessee, he offered the following thoughts and prayers:

Leaving aside, for a moment, the death penalty’s dubious deterrent effect, the more immediate issue with “automatic” capital punishment is that it’s illegal.

If a defendant is convicted in a death penalty case, then a separate trial is held in which the jury weighs aggravating and mitigating factors, to determine whether to recommend a death sentence. Prosecutors wouldn’t go through that process if they didn’t have to. Indeed, the Supreme Court has struck down mandatory capital punishment on multiple occasions, reiterating that individualized sentencing is needed.

Of course, as we’ve starkly seen unfold, precedent is only worth what the Supreme Court decides it’s worth at a given moment. Earlier this month, I noted that another Republican politician from Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis, pushed a bill that would give the death penalty for the rape of a child, which also would contravene high court precedent.

Whether any of these precedents would stand if challenged remains to be seen at a court that has nurtured the GOP’s gun and execution obsessions alike.