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May 7, 2007

Time piece on making child rape a capital crime

The latest Time magazine has this effective article entitled "Death Penalty for Child Molesters?". Here are excerpts:

In the state that is the nation's undisputed death penalty leader, Texas, you might think there is no such thing as a punishment considered too harsh. But as legislators there consider joining the small but growing number of states making certain convicted pedophiles eligible for the death penalty, a surprisingly vocal group of critics has emerged, arguing that the measure is shortsighted, counterproductive and probably unconstitutional.

"There's tough. And then there's Texas tough," Republican Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst declared at his January inauguration as he pledged to press for mandatory 25 year sentences and a two-strikes death-penalty provision for convicted child predators.  The proposal is a more extreme version of the so-called " Jessica's Law " passed by the Florida legislature in the wake of the February 2005 rape and murder of nine-year-old Jessica Lunsford.  That landmark statute imposed mandatory 25-year prison terms and life electronic monitoring for sex offenders, and since its passage in May 2005 42 states and Congress have implemented or are considering their own very similar laws.

Dewhurst's stance made headlines and has won him kudos from national backers of Jessica's Law such as Fox News's Bill O'Reilly and John Walsh, producer of America's Most Wanted. But it also sparked the formation of an unexpected coalition of opponents, featuring some of the state's toughest prosecutors as well as victims' rights groups, both of whom worry that the measure could backfire and result in fewer convictions....

The mandatory sentences can backfire, said TAASA spokeswoman Karen Amacher, as prosecutors lose the flexibility to seek lesser sentences in cases where a jury trial may prove too taxing for a child witness, or a jury or judge may not feel a 25-year sentence is warranted.  Since an estimated 80% of child sexual assaults are committed by family members, groups like Amacher's are concerned that mandatory sentence laws, not to mention the death penalty, might dissuade certain people from reporting abuse to authorities.  "With sex offenders we want to say let's lock them up and throw away the key — these folks are just awful after all — but it's just not realistic," Amacher said....

Legal scholars from both sides of the political spectrum have warned Texas legislators the death penalty for repeat sex offenders would likely be declared unconstitutional.  In 1977 the Supreme Court ruled in Coker vs. Georgia that the death penalty in rape cases was cruel and unusual punishment.  Nevertheless, several states have retained old laws providing the death penalty for rape of minors — including Florida, Montana and Louisiana.  Only one state, Louisiana, currently has someone on death row charged with raping a child: Patrick O. Kennedy, who faces the death penalty after being convicted in 2003 of raping an eight-year-old.

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The debate over whether the rape of child should be a capital crime seems to be gaining increasing attention. From Time:Dewhurst's stance made headlines and has won him kudos from national backers of Jessica's Law such as Fox News's Bill [Read More]

Tracked on May 7, 2007 4:17:23 PM

Comments

I have a better idea than the death penalty for kiddie sex offenders--how about being sentenced to a lifetime of Bill O'Reilly re-runs--24/7? Talk about deterrence . . . .

The Eighth Amendment likely would prohibit such barbaric torture.

Posted by: federalist | May 8, 2007 11:27:42 PM

I am a victim of sexual abuse/molestation, rape, sexual assult. All of this happened to me over a period of time, and im still trying to cope with it and for 18 years (sexual abuse/molestation) it has been very tough.
If you knew someone who has been sexually molested for years or if it happened to you. The child is mentally damaged for LIFE, counseling can help, but only but so much. They are set free, only to shatter the life of another innocent child. And of course the guy wont tell the mother that he like to sexualy assult, molest or sodomize a child. How you you feel if you daughter or son ages 2-8 are getting raped by a grown man? In other countries, that kind of behavior is not allowed and they are automatically killed for touching a child and has a wife or girlfriend or prostitute or whatever. If people who kill for no reason get the death penalty, so should the people to damage a child for the rest of thier lives, who cannot communicate, or trust a certain individual.

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Posted by: DFDF | Jul 29, 2007 1:20:56 AM

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