Though prosecutors and victims rights groups opposed the legislation because it would make victims less likely to report crimes, and give predators incentives murder victims, that didn't seem to matter to Lt. Gov. Dewhurst and company who strongarmed votes for the most draconian version of the legislation. This is a disappointment, and I wouldn't be surprised to see the law altered by future Legislatures when the obvious unintended consequences - of which members were well informed - begin to manifest in the real world.
Kudos to Sen. Rodney Ellis who cast the lone "no" vote on the legislation.
UDPATE: See AP's initial coverage, and also the Austin Statesman. A good post from Patti Hart at BurkaBlog has more details on the compromise. She writes:
Luckily for the state of Texas, Dewhurst has been forced to significantly change the bill in order to get enough votes to pass it out of the Texas Senate. At the urging of many outspoken senators and prosecutors, a revised proposal calls for a minimum 25-year sentence only for enhanced cases of aggravated sexual assault, when the crime includes particularly egregious circumstances like kidnapping or use of a weapon or violence.Hart wrote that support for the bill in the Senate, though broad in the end, was only an "inch deep," and that "clinging to a false issue" had cost the Lieutenant Governor significant political capital.
This change was critical to win support of prosecutors. Since approximately 80 percent of child sex abuse involves family members, an automatic 25-year prison term would dissuade families from seeking prosecution. "If a child knows that Uncle Harry is going to prison for 25 years, she's not likely to testify," a lawmaker explained to me.
Likewise, prosecutors did not want an automatic death penalty, and even questioned its constitutionality. The latest draft of the bill, sponsored by Bob Deuell, gives prosecutors the option of life without parole or the death penalty upon the second conviction for an enhanced aggravated sexual assault.
MORE from The Texas Observer blog.
SEE prior Grits posts on Jessica's Law:
- Dewhurst's backing of Jessica's Law risks fouling own political nest
- Expanding use of questionable evidence
- Sexual assault victims: Jessica's Law won't help
- Delay made Jessica's Law worse
- Floor substitute out for Jessica's Law
- Death penalty for Catholic priests?
- Jessica's Law needs amending on the House floor
- Are child molesters rational, or not?
- Sex crimes and elderly prisoners' health costs
- The Real Cost of Jessica's Law: Deconstructing the Fiscal Note for HB 8
- 'I misremember it well: Eyewitness deficiencies
- Plenty of innocent names to attach to amendment for Jessica's Law
- Destruction of DNA evidence thwarts justice
- Innocence reforms needed to make sex offender law palatable
- House Corrections Committee: Community-based treatment more effective for sex offenders
- When tough on crime is hard on the coffers
- Victim advocates oppose sex offender enhancements
- Unintended consequence: Why the death penalty for repeat child molesters would harm children's safety