Repeat child sex offenders could face death

Proposal before Senate would allow execution in child assault cases

March 23, 2006

By Tim Smith
CAPITAL BUREAU

COLUMBIA — State senators are considering a proposal that would allow
South Carolina to execute those convicted two or more times of sexually
assaulting children.

The amendment came as the Senate took up sexual offender legislation
crafted in response to a Florida girl kidnapped and killed last year and
a week after a Hartsville man was charged with abducting two girls to an
underground shelter and assaulting them.

Currently, South Carolina prosecutors can only seek the death penalty for
murder with aggravating circumstances. If the proposed amendment by Sen.
Kevin Bryant of Anderson passes, South Carolina would join Louisiana as
the only other state to allow the death penalty for an offense other than
murder, senators said.”

They may never recover from this,” Bryant said Wednesday of children who
are assaulted. “I say that’s just as bad as taking a life.”

But other senators worried whether the proposal could endanger the
state’s death penalty laws and be struck down as unconstitutional.

Sen. Brad Hutto, an Orangeburg lawyer, argued against the amendment,
saying it would cause victims’ families unnecessary trauma and cost
counties unnecessary legal expenses because it could be overturned as
unconstitutional.

“To do this is just wrong,” he told the Senate.

Hutto said the proposal has senators in a “political bind.”

“What this amendment is doing is putting us all in a political bind
because who wants to stand up here saying I voted against being tough on
child molesters,” he said. “Maybe one or two of us would have the
political courage to do that but you know it would mean the next
30-second ad against you when you ran the next time saying you didn’t
vote to be tough on child molesters.”

The legislation at the heart of the debate is known as “Jessica’s Law,”
named after a 9-year-old Florida girl allegedly kidnapped and killed last
year by a convicted sex offender.

The legislation would allow prosecutors to seek the death penalty if a
murder is involved and the defendant was deemed a sexually violent
predator. The bill also would require more frequent registrations by
those deemed sexual predators and require electronic monitoring once they
were released from prison.

Bryant’s amendment would deal only with cases in which a defendant is
convicted twice of criminal sexual conduct with a child, 11 years old or
younger.

The Anderson pharmacist said the rest of the legislation is protected by
a clause that would keep the rest of the law intact in the event a higher
court overturns his proposal.

He said he drafted his proposal last year, before the Hartsville assaults
occurred.”I think there is strong support for this,” he said.

The Senate is to continue debate on the proposal today.

Copyright – Greenvilleonline

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