A long-awaited Texas Senate compromise over how to punish child-sex offenders would reserve the death penalty for only the most dangerous predators, the Houston Chronicle reports. A major-child-sex-offender bill backed by Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst would allow the death penalty only for those twice convicted of raping a child 13 or younger. The proposed compromise for the much-promoted “Jessica’s Law” increases the mandatory minimum sentences from the current law for a variety of sex crimes against children. The legislation is named after Jessica Lunsford, the Florida 9-year-old who was abducted from her home, raped and buried alive.
The new wording is less drastic than a proposal Dewhurst highlighted during his January inaugural address. It would have created a mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years for a wide variety of sex crimes against children. A second offense for any of those could result in the death penalty. “The only thing we impose the death penalty for is two (penetration) aggravated sexual assaults of a child,” said a legislative sponsor. “There’s a trigger in there that if the U.S. Supreme Court rules that the death penalty for nonmurder is unconstitutional, then everything will revert back to life without parole.”