Statement of Senator Ellis on Plan to Allow Death Penalty for Sexual Abuse of Children
AUSTIN -- Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) released the following statement regarding legislation allowing the death penalty in cases of sexual abuse of children.
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"I have serious reservations about allowing the death penalty in cases of sexual abuse of children. Day after day, we learn more about the flaws of our criminal justice system. Recently, we had two gentlemen -- James Waller and Brandon Moon -- on the Senate floor who were registered sex offenders. They were wrongfully convicted. They served a combined 27 years in prison for rape and sexual assault. They were completely innocent of the crimes for which they were convicted. The wheels of justice moved far too slowly to right those wrongs. With this bill, I'm worried they wouldn't be here for us to correct the injustice. By no means are these isolated cases. Bringing the death penalty into the equation makes it far, far more likely that we are going to make a tragic, irreversible mistake. In fact, by eliminating the need for a unanimous verdict, I believe we just made it a matter of when, not if.
"Also, I fear that bringing the death penalty into the equation -- while it makes a great sound bite and sounds tough on crime -- will actually lead to the death of more children. Facing a possible death sentence, a criminal who has raped a young child may just decide to not take the risk of leaving a witness. If, God forbid, my child is abused in this way, I want her back.
"I also believe in my heart that this law is unconstitutional on its face. In the past, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the death penalty is reserved for crimes which have resulted in the death of a victim.
"Life without parole is not a picnic. I have no problem -- morally or constitutionally -- with locking the scum of the Earth up for life. But, let's be tough on crime and smart too."