AUSTIN – The Texas House gave final approval Tuesday to a measure that would allow the state to sentence sex offenders who repeatedly prey on children to death.
The House voted to create a new category of crime — continual sexual abuse of a young child or children ” that carries a minimum of 25 years to life in prison and possibly the death penalty for a second offense.

The final proposal was a compromise after some lawmakers bristled at broader a death penalty provision over concerns that it might lead some molesters to kill their victims.
The House voted 119-25 in favor of the measure.

The bill is named Jessica’s Law after Jessica Lunsford, a Florida girl who was abducted and killed. A convicted sex offender has been accused in her death. More than a dozen states have passed versions of Jessica’s Law to crack down on sex offenders and Gov. Rick Perry has deemed passage of a child sex offender bill a legislative emergency.

The Texas version would make the Lone Star State the sixth to allow some child sex offenders to be sentenced to death, although some legal experts question whether it is constitutional to use the ultimate penalty in cases where the victim did not die.

The House bill defines continuous sexual abuse of a young child as more than one sex act committed against a victim younger than 14 over a period of 30 days or more.
The first offense would carry 25 to 99 years in prison. If an offender was released and later convicted of the same crime again, he or she would face life without parole or the death penalty.

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The Jessica’s Law bills are HB 8 and SB 5.

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