Texas Governor Signs Jessica's Law Bill Authored by Deuell

Governor signs Jessica's Law bill authored by Deuell

Herald-Banner Staff

Although he was unable to attend the ceremony in Austin, State Sen. Bob Deuell (R-Greenville) said he was gratified that his Jessica's Law bill has officially become law.

Gov. Rick Perry signed the bill, which will enact some of the harshest punishments in the nation for child molesters, Monday. House Bill 8, also known as Jessica's Law, will go into effect on Sept. 1. The bill is named for Jessica Lunsford, a 9-year-old Florida girl who was kidnapped, raped and killed by a convicted sex offender.

Deuell authored the Jessica's Law bill in the Texas Senate and was the Senate sponsor of the bill.

"In February 2006, I made a commitment to my constituents that I would file Jessica's Law and do everything I could to protect our most vulnerable citizens," Deuell said in a statement issued Tuesday. "With the signing of House Bill 8, we have sent a clear message that we will not tolerate these heinous crimes in Texas."

Joining Perry at the ceremony were Lt. Governor David Dewhurst, as well as representatives from several Texas law enforcement groups and victim's rights groups. Also attending was Jessica Lunsford's father, Mark Lunsford.

Deuell, a practicing family physician, was unable to attend the ceremony due to his medical practice but did speak with Lunsford by phone before the ceremony.

"I just wanted to apologize for not being able to attend and thank him for all the work he is doing across the country," Deuell said. "He was very gracious and I look forward to meeting him in person."

According to Lunsford, Texas is the 32nd state to adopt Jessica's Law.

"It's time that we turned the tables and instead of them stalking our kids, we stalk them," Lunsford said. "And instead of them being our worst nightmare, we become theirs."

Deuell pre-filed the legislation, then called Senate Bill 68, in November of last year, at Dewhurst's request. Deuell joined Dewhurst in February to announce the filing of Senate Bill 5 as part of Dewhurst's "Texas Children First" plan.

"From the beginning of this session, passing a 'Texas tough' Jessica's Law has been one of my top priorities,'" Dewhurst said. "Jessica's Law will protect countless children from harm, but when one of these heinous crimes does occur, this will allow prosecutors to seek severe and appropriate justice."

Key components of Jessica's Law include:

- The statute of limitations on sexual abuse crimes committed against children has been doubled, and for some cases eliminated.

- Local prosecutors can request assistance from the Attorney General's office in prosecuting violent sexual offenses.

- The bill calls for active, real-time GPS monitoring and tracking of violent sexual offenders.

- Criminal courts will be required to prioritize cases of sexual abuse against children.

- A new offense is created, "Continuous Sexual Abuse of a Young Child,".

- Penalties for cases of child prostitution and production of child pornography are increased.

- A minimum 25 year sentence is mandated for those who commit the most heinous crimes against children.

- Life in prison without parole, and the option of the death penalty, is authorized for those convicted multiple times of violent, aggravated sexual assaults of young children.

Deuell represents Texas Senate District 2, which includes Hunt and Rockwall counties, as well as all of Delta, Hopkins, Kaufman, Fannin, Rains, and Van Zandt counties, as well as parts of Dallas and Smith counties.

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