With Election Day nearing, politicians increasingly are calling for laws that would allow states to execute repeat child molesters, reports the Los Angeles Times. Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst is the latest, proposing a minimum mandatory prison sentence of 25 years for first-time offenders and the possibility of death for a second conviction. Similar ideas have been pushed by lawmakers in Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and even Minnesota, which doesn’t have the death penalty. Most are modeled after Florida’s Jessica’s Law, a measure named for 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford, who was raped and killed by a registered sex offender in 2005. This year, Oklahoma and South Carolina passed laws allowing the death penalty for the rape of a child. Execution is an option for offenders who commit certain sex crimes against children in Montana and Louisiana.
Critics say that if child sex crimes are a capital offense, victims might not report abuse if the offender are family members. “If you’ve got a father or brother or uncle molesting a young person, a lot of people aren’t going to turn them in if it means they’ll be sent to jail or put to death,” said Michael Mears of the Georgia Public Defender Standards Council. Another concern is that the measures might give assailants an incentive to kill the victim. “If the penalty for murder and molestation is the same, why not go ahead and kill the only witness to the event?” Mears said.