If you enjoy killing people and do so in the State of Texas, we will kill you back. We’re famous for it. And our State Legislature is right now considering adding that fact of life to those who enjoy sexually assaulting our children.
On Monday of this week, the Texas House approved a bill to provide a death sentence to repeated sex offenders and created a new crime category of ongoing or continual sexual abuse of children. The measure passed the House 118-23 and, if ratified by the Senate, will carry a minimum of 25 years in prison for a first offense and either life without parole or death penalty for subsequent offenses. The Senate is tossing around its own version of the bill that would mandate a minimal 25 year sentence for first-time sexual offenses against children.
Legislators also passed an amendment making it a second-degree felony for anyone aware of sexual abuse of children and failing to report it.
The cadre of laws proposed in the Legislature are strongly patterned after Florida’s “Jessica’s Law” named after Jessica Lunsford, who was heinously raped and buried alive in a garbage bag. And just moments ago, a Miami jury found John Evander Couey guilty of burglary, kidnapping, sexual battery, and First Degree Murder of young Jessica.
The proposed Texas law defines continuous sexual abuse of a child as more than one crime committed against a victim younger than 14 years over a period of 30 days or more. If convicted under this law, a criminal would yield 25 to 99 years in prison. If released on parole and later convicted for a similar crime again, said criminal would automatically face life without parole or death.
There are exceptions to the law that would allow for teenage sexual affairs under what is called a “Romeo and Juliet” clause.
More than a dozen states have already adopted strengthened penalties against those convicted of sexual crimes against children, some of which also provide for death penalties in the most egregious of cases. Missouri is entertaining one right now in the aftermath of the Michael J. Devlin case. Yet, even when death penalties are not provided for in state statues, prosecutors have often been authorized to seek death penalties.