Statesman Editorial Board Comes Out Strong Against Jessica’s Law

Posted in 80th Legislature, Commentary, Criminal Justice at 10:38 pm by wcnews

It’s a very good editorial, Jessica’s Law misdirects threat of death penalty. It pulls no punches and calls our Rep. Riddle:

Still, the bill that passed the House this week was better than the original bill filed by state Rep. Debbie Riddle, R-Tomball. Under the redrafted bill, first convictions of continual sexual abuse of a child carries a penalty of 25 years to life in prison. A second offense carries a penalty of life without parole or death by lethal injection.The redrafted version also gives a nod to the ongoing investigation of sexual abuse at Texas Youth Commission facilities by making it a felony to fail to report sexual abuse of minors. It also includes a “Romeo and Juliet” clause to exclude teenage consensual lovers.

Riddle is the Legislature’s queen of symbolic gestures. Besides the death penalty for pedophiles bill, she sponsored a measure to add “under God” to the pledge to the Texas flag and supported the slogan “In God We Trust” on the House message board. State Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, another culture warrior of some repute, headed the successful effort in the Senate to have “In God We Trust” permanently etched in the Senate chamber.

As with the death penalty provision for repeat child abusers, the references to God on message boards and in the pledge to the flag are difficult issues to oppose. They are the perfect symbols for election campaigns, and members oppose them only at peril to their political careers.

Politicians in Austin and Washington make their careers on such symbolic issues. In the end, it doesn’t matter much that a religious slogan is displayed on the message boards or added to the pledge to the flag. There’s no real damage in that.

And it’s a good bet that no one will ever be executed in Texas for sexual abuse of a child. But it’s entirely possible that some child will die because a pedophile fears the death penalty for a second offense.

So why won’t life without parole suffice? Simply because it doesn’t resonate symbolically and politically like the death penalty. What a terrible reason to put a child’s life in danger.

That’s right. Very well done.

Selby also had this, Political dynamite in predator law, TYC scandal.

The dynamite? Legislators voting no — including Austin Democrats Valinda Bolton, Dawnna Dukes, Donna Howard, Elliott Naishtat and Eddie Rodriguez — could be pasted by campaign foes as pals o’ predators.

My vision: Tough-worded leaflets hitting mailboxes by December, reinforced by radio and TV.

Democratic consultant Jeff Crosby insists that won’t happen: “If the House members who voted for this bill think they’ve found ‘the silver bullet,’ they are sadly mistaken. . . . The few legislators who opposed the bill are largely in safe districts and will say this is a silly, unconstitutional gesture.”

Criminal defense lawyers cite the U.S. Supreme Court’s refusal to permit executions of anyone who has not killed, attempted to kill or intended to kill.

News reports, including brow-raisers by the American-Statesman’s Mike Ward, suggest that agency leaders ignored — maybe even covered up — abuse complaints from youths against TYC employees. Multiple investigations simmer.

In the House on Tuesday, a GOP member confessed trepidation over Riddle’s proposal, fearing unforeseen consequences, though the measure excuses 17-year-olds who have consensual relations with 13-year-olds from charges of continuous sexual assaults of a child.

“Pandering,” the member murmured. He voted for approval.

It the worst kind of pandering because, as you can tell by that comment, they know this bill will not improve the situation. In fact it will probably make things worse for children that are subjected to sexual predators. I get a sense that there are many members of both parties didn’t like this bill. But voted for it hoping it will just go away. As far as who this dynamite will blow up on we’ll just have to wait and see.

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