Wednesday, May 23, 2007
Associated Press - May 18, 2007 5:35 PM ET
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - The Legislature today gave final approval to a bill that would allow the death penalty for sex offenders twice convicted of raping children under 14.
The bill now goes to Governor Rick Perry.
House lawmakers approved the measure today after the Senate approved it yesterday.
The bill and others like it in other states are called "Jessica's Laws." They're named for Jessica Lunsford, a Florida girl who was abducted and killed. More than a dozen states have passed versions of Jessica's Law, and Perry deemed passage of a child sex offender bill a legislative emergency.
A Perry spokeswoman said the governor will wait to read the final version of the bill before deciding whether to sign it into law.
Texas would be the sixth state to add the death penalty for some child rape cases. However, legal experts debate whether the punishment would be constitutional in cases where the victim didn't die. Also, victim advocates have warned that the death penalty could do more harm than good. They worry that it may prompt offenders to kill victims who may be the only witness to the crime.
The bill also creates a new category of crime -- continual sexual abuse of a young child or children. It carries a minimum penalty of 25 years to life in prison.
The Jessica's Law bill is HB8.