Jessica’s Law Gets Mixed Reviews

Posted in Criminal Justice, 80th Legislature, Williamson County at 2:20 pm by wcnews

The TDP had this artilce, House passes Jessica’s Law, on Jessica’s Law with Rep. Mike Krusee and WC DA John Bradley seeing it differently.

Rep. Krusee:

“I think this bill serves as a deterrent to sex offenders,” Rep. Mike Krusee, R-Dist. 52, said. “This bill gives jurors another option to use against repeat offenders.”

Krusee said it took more than four hours of debate and more than 20 amendments to be read Monday before the House passed its version of the law.

“(Monday) we were here debating this ‘til seven o’clock,” Krusee said.


However, Krusee said what qualifies as an offender for the punishments has been narrowed.

“These penalties are reserved for repeat offenders - for a person who molests one child for more than a month or someone who molests several children for longer than 30 days,” he said.

Despite last term’s Bushian reference to the “hard work” he did, debating ’til 7:00, manhy people think this law is lacking including John Bradley:

“There are some bills known as ‘Jessica’s Law’ that tend to focus on increasing punishment that, though they have good intention, focus it on the wrong place,” Williamson County District Attorney John Bradley said in a previous interview. “The question we need to address is what assistance do children need, not should we increase punishment. Texas already has some of the toughest punishments for sexually based crimes in the country. By increasing the punishment, the numbers of abuse cases aren’t likely to really change.”


In addition, Bradley said, Jessica’s Law implies it is fairly easy to catch and punish sex offenders.

“… The legislature and certainly the lieutenant governor think it’s quite simple to catch these criminals but in reality it is quite the opposite,” he said. “If a jury finds sex offenders guilty of a crime, they have no problem sending them away for a long time. We need to spend more time on capture … rather than punishment.”

The DA makes some solid points on this. Not to mention the fact that there are many other problems with Jessica’s Law - Texas (see this previous EOW post w/links). The DMN has an article today, Predator penalties criticized, exposes how the way this bill is currently could possibly be used to kill people things like this:

A coach pats a freshman cheerleader on the behind in the hall; an uncle touches his teenage niece; a baby sitter plays doctor with the young boy she’s watching.

I really like what Rep Turner had to say about the bill.

“We all want to deal with sexual predators, and we want to deal with them in the most severest of terms,” said Houston Democratic Rep. Sylvester Turner, who tried unsuccessfully to add a third punishment option of a long prison sentence to the bill. “But writing bad law and hoping prosecutors will not apply what we have authorized is just not the way to govern, I’m sorry.”

What shocked me about this article was the way the holes in the bill were glossed over by Rep. Gattis and others.

Theoretically, that means that a man who groped his toddler daughter through her clothes and got 10 years’ probation could, under the Senate bill, be charged with a capital crime if he gropes her again.

Constitutional provisions against new laws punishing old crimes don’t apply in second convictions – a precedent set in court challenges to enhanced DWI laws – as long as the second crime is committed after the enhancement goes into effect, Mr. Edmonds said.

The House bill creates a new felony of “continuous sexual abuse,” which is defined as two or more incidents of sexually violent offenses against children in a period of 30 days or more. A first conviction would bring mandatory prison time. A second would be eligible for the death penalty. Because the crime is new, previous convictions would not be a factor.

Dr. Deuell said that was his intent with the legislation but that a “lawyer would be better able to answer” the more intricate legal questions about his bill.

Both versions include indecency with a child in their list of “violent sexual offenses.”

Rep. Dan Gattis, R-Georgetown, who helped craft the bill in the House, acknowledges that extreme scenarios could happen but said he hopes the system never lets it get to that point. A prosecutor could decide to go for a lesser charge, a grand jury could decline to indict a suspect or a jury could find the defendant guilty of a lesser charge.

Experts say there’s no guarantee that will happen. While many indecency charges result in probation, more than 4,000 inmates are currently in Texas prisons for indecency with a child.

“This is not like bank fraud, where jurors can be very dispassionate,” said Tim Bray, a criminologist at the University of Texas at Dallas. “Kids are very moving victims, and no adult – whether they’re on the jury or not – wants to see a child harmed. So it’s very easy for a juror to become very emotionally charged in these cases.”

And “outrageous results” are not new to Texas, certainly. The case of Tyrone Brown made national headlines after The Dallas Morning News reported that he was sentenced to life in prison after testing positive for marijuana while on probation for a $2 armed robbery in which the victim was unhurt.

“The system operates on the good faith that the prosecutor is prosecuting in good faith, that the police are arresting in good faith and that the victims are truly victims,” Mr. Bray said. “There’s always going to be the potential that prosecutors can take something further than it’s supposed to go. But we hope and rely on ethics panels and the judge and jury to stop that it in its tracks.”

I agree with Rep. Turner a bad law and hope is now way to deal with this issue. Also I don’t have that much faith in ethics panels, judges and juries.

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