Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Delay made Jessica's Law worse

The floor substitute for "Jessica's Law" (HB 8) passed yesterday by the Texas House looks like pure junk legislation to me. In many ways, they made it worse. (See AP's coverage and the vote count at Capitol Annex.)

First offense penalties for the new crime of continuous sexual abuse of a child (in debate it came out that "continuous" doesn't need to be for very long at all) will be 25-99 years, with a death sentence on the second offense. That almost ensures many families won't turn in relatives for fear they'll receive such long sentences.

I wanted to scream at them from the gallery, "Don't you understand you're causing MORE kids to be molested without recourse?!"

Jurors don't even have to agree on which crime was committed when. Plus, they removed the statute of limitations for this and other sex crimes entirely, inviting faulty testimony decades after the fact.

This bill invites worse prison overcrowding, spiraling geriatric health costs at TDCJ, and more innocent people in prison because of the change in the statute of limitations. It makes things worse for kids, not better. The only people who benefit from this bill are the politicians who plan to use it in their campaigns marketing themselves to a gullible public who trusted them to act in their interest to keep their children safe.

Yesterday's vote betrayed that trust.

MORE: Paul Burka analyzes why HB 8 will be declared unconstitutional as written.


Anonymous said...

Perhaps you should have screamed grits. I'm so sad to see that while I've been in TX, they've done what I feared they would. Sad indeed.

Anonymous said...

Rediculous. Extending the statute of limitations making life worse for children? Your soap box is a bit rickety...snafu.

Anonymous said...

And why, Grits, is Rep. Aaron Pena so high in your estimations, exactly?

Is there any chance that this "junk legislation" will be blocked by the Senate?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

No, anonymous - 25 years on the first offense makes life worse for children, because they'll be less likely to report family members. Removing the statute of limitations makes it more likely innocent people will be convicted from faulty eyewitness testimony. This is a bad bill for many reasons.

And I called out Peña for passing this bill out of committee, but I also think he's a brand new committee chair, this was a Speaker's bill (see the low number), and there's a lot of session left for him to prove himself. He'll certainly get his chance. If I seem like I'm defending him, it's on these grounds: I think some Democrats want him to fail because of the Craddick vote, and I want him to succeed because the state needs better laws.

As for the Senate, this won't get blocked there, but it will likely be altered, then there would be a conference committee where the final bill will probably be written.

Mariamariacuchita said...

Good commentary. The Texas Association Against Sexual Assault has also written a commentary on these unintended consequences of the Jessica's law. www.taasa.org

Mariamariacuchita said...

and the sad part is that they will skewer all (of the 25) Democrats who did not support this bill in the draconian way it was crafted as being pro-pedophile.