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South Carolina Laws

State Okays Death Penalty for Repeat Child Rapists

In another effort by state legislators to beef up "Jessica Law" penalties for repeat child molesters, the South Carolina Senate has voted for a bill that would allow prosecutors to seek the death penalty for sex offenders who are convicted twice of raping a child under 11 years old.

The death penalty provision, part of a bill that increases minimum sentences and provides for lifetime monitoring for some sex offenders, may end up being a test case before the U.S. Supreme Court.

In 1997, the Supreme Court ruled that a Georgia law providing for the death penalty for a rape involving an adult victim was unconstitutional, but the court has not ruled on cases involving the rape of a child.

The court declined to review a Louisiana Supreme Court ruling that upheld that state's death penalty for rapists of children under 12 years old.

South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster told lawmakers he would gladly argue the case before the U.S. Supreme Court, but he believes other states will also pass similar laws before any challenge to the law could be argued.

Several states have adopted tougher laws against child molesters since the kidnapping and murder of Jessica Lunsford by a repeat sex offender brought loopholes in the sexual offender laws to light.

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