Senate committee approves death penalty for sex assaults on children

8:57 PM, Mar 10, 2008   |    comments
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The bill applies to perpetrators who threaten to retaliate against their victims, and who are convicted of a second assault on a child.

Sen. Josh Penry (R-Fruita) said the death penalty would be a deterrent to predators who have previously been convicted of sexual assault on a child.

"If it happens, it won't happen again," Penry told the committee.

Prosecutors would have to submit DNA evidence to pursue the death penalty. If there is no DNA, the maximum penalty would be life in prison.

Cathryn Hazouri, executive director of the ACLU in Colorado, said she believes the bill is unconstitutional because a person convicted using DNA could face the death penalty, while another predator who did not leave DNA could avoid it.

"The same crime depends on one piece of evidence," she told the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The bill (Senate Bill 195) sponsored by Sen. Steve Ward, R- Littleton, now goes to the Senate Appropriations Committee, where it faces a tough, uphill battle because of a high price tag for defending and prosecuting death penalty cases.

Doug Wilson, the state's chief public defender, said only five states - Montana, South Carolina, Oklahoma, and Louisiana - have similar laws on the books. He said the Louisiana law is being challenged in the U.S. Supreme Court and could be decided later this year.

He said children would be less likely to report a sexual assault if they thought a family friend or a parent could be executed.

(Copyright Associated Press, All Rights Reserved)

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