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Predator Bill OK'd, Killer Executed

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

Florida’s powerful House Appropriation Committee approved a series of bills on Wednesday that would expand Florida’s Jimmy Ryce Act, which targets sexual predators.

A few hours later, the man convicted of the rape-murder of the 9-year-old Miami boy in 1995 was executed. Juan Carlos Chavez, 46, spent almost 16 years on Death Row at Florida State Prison in Starke.

The 1998 law allowed the state to hold sexual predators indefinitely if they are found to be a danger and can order them committed to involuntary treatment. Dan Ryce, the boy’s father, was one of the leaders of the effort to pass the law. He and a surviving son were among the 19 witnesses at the execution, and he spoke at a press conference (video posted at Local 10).

Chavez was the 13th inmate put to death in Florida  since the beginning of Gov. Rick Scott's term in 2011 and the 12th since the beginning of 2012, the Miami Herald reported.

Of the measures approved on Wednesday, the Florida Currentreports, the most significant is HB 7027 by Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach. It would create a mandatory minimum sentence of 50 years for anyone convicted of rape or torture of a child, senior or person with a disability.

Other bills in the set -- collectively called “Protecting Florida’s Vulnerable Initiative,” are:

--HB 7013, which authorizes Department of Children and Families to conduct research on formerly commited pedophiles after their release.

--HB 7017, which says time spent in commitment would not count as “community supervision.”

--HB 7025, which expands the definition of those who are to be considered vulnerable beyond children, including patients and the developmentally disabled.

--HB 7019, which would add state attorneys to the list of officials  who can refer predators for involuntary commitment.

--HB 7021, which would add experienced psychiatrists to panels who decide whether a sex offender can be safely released. That bill next goes to the Health and Human Services Committee, while the other bills move to the Judiciary Committee, the Current reports.

Originally founded in December 2006 as an independent grassroots publication dedicated to coverage of health issues in Florida, Health News Florida was acquired by WUSF Public Media in September 2012.