Wednesday, January 17, 2007
Does Texas need to be any tougher on crime? Well, some Texas lawmakers are considering it by proposing new laws allowing capital punishment for repeat sex offenders. Other proposals include mandatory long sentences for first-time offenders or eliminating probation. But the laws face fierce opposition from all sides, including prosecutors and victims advocates. They fear some of the proposals would make it harder to get convictions and, perhaps, put children in even more danger by giving molesters incentive to kill the only potential witness to their crimes..."If the punishment for raping a child and raping and killing are exactly the same the rapist may kill so that witness is no longer there,'' says one crime victim advocate.
And there's the BIG question of whether the death penalty in sex offenses is even constitutional. In 1977, the U.S. Supreme Court in Coker v. Georgia, 433 U.S. 584, reversed a death sentence for a Georgia man convicted of raping a woman, calling it an "excessive penalty for the rapist, who as such, does not take human life.'' Even so, according to the Richard Dieter of the Death Penalty Information Center, a handful of states--Florida, Montana, Louisiana, Oklahoma and South Carolina--have already passed new death penalty laws for sex offenses against children. No one has been executed under the laws, but one Louisiana inmate is on death row for the 2003 rape of an 8-year-old girl. That case is still being reviewed by state and federal appeals courts. Because Coker involved an adult victim, proponents of the death penalty expansion hope that SCOTUS will interpret Coker as a victim-specific ban on capital punishment for sex offenses, prohibiting death sentences adult victims but leaving room for sex offenders of child victims. Story here from Dallas/Fort Worth's KLRD.com. . . [Michele Berry]