Hawaii Lawmakers Aim to Strengthen Laws Against Sex Offenders Targeting Children
Nine-year-old Jessica Lunsford was kidnapped from her home in Florida by 46-year-old John Couey after he broke into her home at 3 a.m. in 2005.
Couey, a convicted sex offender who lived nearby in a trailer, raped Jessica over three days before brutally murdering her by burying her alive in two garbage bags. After confessing to the crimes, he was sentenced to death on charges of first degree murder, kidnapping and capital sexual battery.
Jessica's father, Mark Lunsford, helped get passed new legislation that makes life tougher for convicted sex offenders. The legislation was named the Jessica Lunsford Act allows law enforcement to more closely track sex offenders, can require sex offenders to wear electronic tracking devices and mandates increased prison sentences.
Other states passed "Jessica's Law" mandating a minimum sentence of 25 years and maximum life in prison for first time sex offenders who attack children. (See specifics of the legislation)
Hawaii is not tough enough on child predators, according to Senate Minority Leader Sam Slom, who wants to change that. The East Oahu Republican introduced Jessica’s legislation in this session and hopes Hawaii will become the next state to mandate that sex offenders who abuse children will spend at least 25 years in prison.
"It is unacceptable that Hawaii, whose lawmakers are always talking about doing things 'for the Keiki' have long neglected basic protection of our children against sexual predators," Slom said. "Some think even a 25 year minimun sentence is too lenient but it is better than Hawaii's current 2 year sentence. Nationally, several organizations have taken note of our indefensible position. Even though it is late, now must be the year we act and tell the monsters who prey on our children we will stop you."
Senators Gilbert Keith-Agaran, Michelle Kidani, Clarence Nishihara, Brian Taniguchi, Glenn Wakai and Senate President Donna Mercado Kim, signed on as co-introducers of the legislation. The Honolulu city prosecutor's office will be supporting similar legislation, according to spokesperson Dave Koga.
Political Commentator Bill O'Reilly has made a push for Jessica's Law to be enacted in every state. A map on his web site shows Hawaii is one of just 6 states that has lax laws for child sex offenders.
In a commentary on his web site, O'Reilly said: "These outrageous crimes could have been prevented, which is why I am calling on every state in the union to pass a version of 'Jessica's Law.' The legislation is named after little Jessica Lunsford, who was just 9 years old when her life was brutally ended by a sexual predator who had previously been convicted of sex crimes against a child. The crime forced Gov. Jeb Bush and the Florida legislature to mandate stiff minimum sentences for child abusers, who had all too often been slapped on the wrist by lenient judges."
"There is simply no question that Jessica's Law will save lives, and similar laws need to be instituted in every state. ... This is literally a life-and-death battle to save our youngest and most vulnerable citizens from abuse, torture, and murder."
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