Friday, October 10, 2008

Attack on Jessica's Law vote in House race amounts to demagoguery

I don't live in Austin's District 47 or know much about either Texas House candidate in the Southwest Travis County race; one-term Democratic Rep. Valinda Bolton wasn't on any of the committees I watch closely in 2007, and while I've had extensive dealings with former Rep. Terry Keel, who previously chaired the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee and is now Tom Craddick's parliamentarian, I don't know a thing about his sister-in-law who's running against Bolton.

However, Donna Keel's cheapshotting Bolton over her vote against Jessica's Law, as reported by Kate Alexander in yesterday's Statesman, reveals either a profound ignorance of the issues by candidate Keel or the cynical mentality of a demagogue. This was a deeply flawed piece of legislation whose centerpiece - the death penalty for child molesters - was promptly deemed unconstitutional by the US Supreme Court. (SCOTUS first declared execution for rape unconstitutional in the '70s, and reaffirmed that conclusion this year.)

Texas' statutes in place before Jessica's Law were by no means lenient. The uncorroborated accusation of a child, even hearsay, already could earn a life sentence in Texas - any tuffer than that is just overkill. It's already hard enough to get familiy members to report these crimes and Jessica's Law foolishly made it more likely victims won't come forward.

Creating a phony wedge issue to use for cheap-shotting critics as "soft on crime" was the only reason the Lege passed this flawed and pointless law. It was a weird bill all the way through the process - even the prosecutors and crime victim groups opposed it along the the ACLU and other usual suspects. The ONLY people who seemed to want the bill were a handful of politicians, and they wanted it badly, while those who didn't like it mostly held their nose and voted for it anyway - either because of pressure from the leadership or because they were afraid somebody might do to them what Keel is trying to do to Bolton.

This is an issue where Texas pols have been grandstanding with "git tuff" bills for so many years that all reasonable penalty increases have long been exhausted. At this point, most new penalty hikes amount to overkill, in this case with unintended, negative consequences for crime victims.

Keel's attack is even more despicable because Bolton "spent her career working with victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse," reports the Statesman. So, like the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault, Bolton opposed the bill because it made things worse for victims - that's an honorable vote, all the more courageous because she knew when she made it some cynical opportunist might use it later for demagoguing in a campaign, just like Donna Keel is doing now.


Anonymous said...

It isn't just he mandatory minimums that one needs to pay attention to in "jessica's law'. One needs to also bring to light all of the expost facto issues dressed up to look like public safety rules and laws.

The real problem here, is the continued appropriation of these bills into law not only violate someone's life after they have served their sentence, but also lays out a framework for legislative bodies to follow when they find a new red-headed step child they want to rip civil rights away from. Now it is sex offenders, tomorrow, it could be DUI offenders, or sidewalk spitters (that is an extreme example folks, but it a valid idea).

What next, they cannot get gun control laws passed, so lets put up a gun owners registry? It was my belief that forgiveness was in some book somewhere, and you hear about it in most other cases, even for murder...

Anonymous said...

What about the children who get tangled up in these laws that are suppose to keep children safe? There is a story about a thirteen year old boy close to Dallas who was sent a nude pic of a class mate and now he has to register. What about the children? Some as young as 8. How can they be classified as a sex offender?
Please read and educate your children and yourselves.

Anonymous said...

It always concerns me to hear any politician say they don't care about the rights of any group. That is what has been happening, and that is why everybody should be concerned.
The lessons of history tell us that first the despised have their rights taken away, then the rest slowly lose their rights as well.
This is not so much about sex offenders as it is about power. And it is not about children at all, or the people in charge would want to know what works, not just what sounds good.
If you have been paying attention to this issue, you already know that the recidivism rate is low for sex offenders, according to the US Department of Justice. You probably already know that Iowa is having a real increase in sex offenders "disappearing off the radar", a result of their residency restrictions, among other things.
So, why pass more legislation that does no good and may cause harm to communities and the children in them?
The only reason I can see is political expediency.
And that is no way to run a government.

123txpublicdefender123 said...

But you have to vote for Jessica's Law or else Bill O'Reilly will call you out on his show as someone who wants children to be raped and killed.

Anonymous said...

Facing O'Reily can't be as bad as dealing with Nancy Grace, the self imposed queen of truth and integrity. I can deal with O'Reily.

Anonymous said...

Ok, but the American population needs to realize that character is something more than a drawing in a cartoon.

Anonymous said...

Shame on Ms. Keel! I wish I did live in her district so that I could vote for Ms. Bolton.

Anonymous said...

Here is a Republican journalist who is also an aid to a state Senator. What an insight to their mindset. UNBELIEVABLE!!