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Jessica's Law Blog

Legislative Action Center Issues Library Jessica's Law


  THURSDAY, OCTOBER 1, 2009

National Federation of Republican Women Comments on Lunsford Murderer's Death

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – Upon hearing the news that the man who raped and murdered nine-year-old Jessica Lunsford has died of apparently natural causes while awaiting execution in prison, the National Federation of Republican Women (NFRW) is more committed than ever to seeing Jessica’s Law passed in every state.

“First and foremost, our thoughts and prayers are with Jessica’s family,” NFRW President Shirley Sadler says. “The death of Jessica’s murderer, John Couey, serves as a reminder that Jessica’s Law, which keeps child molesters incarcerated longer, must be passed nationwide. The NFRW has been instrumental for the past four years in lobbying state legislatures to pass Jessica’s Law, and more than 30 states already have enacted some version of the legislation.”

The NFRW will continue efforts to see Jessica’s Law passed in the remaining states and will oppose efforts to water down the legislation in any state that has already passed it.

NFRW member Martha Jenkins was involved in the effort to pass Jessica’s Law in her state of North Carolina. She became acquainted with Jessica’s father, Mark Lunsford, who was originally from Gaston County, N.C., before he moved Jessica to Florida to be closer to his parents.

“In North Carolina, we have a very special interest in what happened to Jessica because of her North Carolina birth,” Jenkins says. “Nothing can relieve the horror, grief and loss the Lunsford family suffered because of the monstrous acts of Couey, but we are thankful that the family’s suffering will not include the appeals process that was underway following Couey’s conviction.”

Founded in 1938, the NFRW has thousands of active members in local clubs across the nation and in several U.S. territories, making it one of the largest women’s political organizations in the country. The grassroots organization recruits and elects Republican candidates, advocates the Party’s philosophy and initiatives, and empowers women in the political process.

For more information about the NFRW, visit www.nfrw.org.

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  MONDAY, JULY 21, 2008

Jessica's Law Passes North Carolina Legislature, Will Be Signed by Governor

At the close of the North Carolina short session, the North Carolina House and Senate voted overwhelmingly in support of the passage of Lunsford Act in the House and Senate, and the bill is on its way to the Governor's office for his signature.

The bill increases penalties for sexual predators convicted of crimes against children. Under the new legislation, adult offenders convicted of specific sex crimes against children under the age of thirteen will be given mandatory sentences of at least 25 years and be monitored by satellite for life if released.

The NCFRW has been involved with this issue for three years because one NCFRW member spoke up to request that the NCFRW become involved in this important legislation in order to protect our children. Our members embraced this mission and began getting petitions and raising awareness in the communities. Since 2005, NCFRW raised awareness by speaking out, writing letters to the editor, and contacting legislators. Our voices were heard!

Our efforts made a significant difference up until the final day of passage. I cannot express my gratitude enough for the work that has been done by our members towards this effort.

Chairman Linda Daves, North Carolina Republican Party, made the following statement: "Yesterday, in North Carolina, we marked an important conservative victory. After a three-year grassroots effort by conservative activists, finally Jessica's Law has been given the hearing it deserved and passed overwhelmingly. Special recognition should be given to the North Carolina Federation of Republican Women who have led the charge to see this law passed and who refused to give up until the task was accomplished. Numerous hours, phone calls, letters, and petitions helped to make this possible and the dedication of these women and all those who dedicated themselves to the cause does not go unrecognized or unappreciated. Because of their hard work, we can be sure that our children will be safer from the unspeakable acts of repeat criminals. We can never forget how valuable the work can be of ordinary citizens dedicated to making our state a better place to live and raise a family."

As we move forward to the election, we will remember the strength of our voice and what we can accomplish. The North Carolina Federation of Republican Women are 'Women Making a Difference.'

Sincerely,
Valerie White
NCFRW President


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  MONDAY, JUNE 16, 2008

North Carolina FRW Helps Pass Jessica's Law in State Senate

The North Carolina senate unanimously approved a measure which would require people who commit certain sex crimes, against children, to serve at least 25 years in prison. Judges would be required to sentence offenders who commit sexual offenses (including rape) against children to 25 years in prison or life without parole. Released offenders would be electronically monitored for life. The proposal also includes new crimes against anyone who commits rape, or other sexual offenses, against a child under 13. The bill now will head back to the state house, which approved a similar version of the proposal last year and must decide whether to accept the senate's changes.


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  THURSDAY, JANUARY 24, 2008

Utah's Jessica's Law Moves Forward

Click here for more information.


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  FRIDAY, AUGUST 24, 2007

Judge Sentences John Couey to Death for Murdering Jessica Lunsford

On Friday, August 24, a Florida judge sentenced John Couey to death for the kidnap, rape and murder of nine-year-old Jessica Lunsford. For details, click here.


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  WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 1, 2007

N.C. Federation of Republican Women Praises
North Carolina House for Passing Jessica’s Law

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Contact: Martha Jenkins, 919-619-3493, www.ncfederationofrepublicanwomen.org

Today, the NCFRW applauds the North Carolina House for passing H 933, the Jessica Lunsford Act for North Carolina. HB 933, The Jessica Lunsford Act of N.C. was sponsored by Representative Tim Moore, Representative Julia Howard, Representative Debbie Clary, and Representative Charles Thomas, and it received bipartisan support in the House. The act would require a mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years (without parole) to life for first time offenders and it would expand GPS monitoring of sex offenders once released from prison.

In April of this year, Mark Lunsford, whose 8-year-old daughter Jessica Lunsford was abducted, raped, and murdered in Florida in 2005, spoke to legislators and members of the North Carolina Federation of Republican Women (NCFRW) in Raleigh at the North Carolina General Assembly. Lunsford is committed to seeing that the Jessica Lunsford Act or its equivalent is passed in all 50 states. “No parent should have to experience what I’ve experienced,” Lunsford said. “Sexual predators need to be given a strong message – we don’t want you here.” He continued, “It is imperative that violent sex offenders are incarcerated for a very long time, where they can’t molest our children.”

“As a mother, I am thrilled that the House of Representatives has passed this bill. I applaud the efforts of the bill’s sponsors to get this through the House, and also the efforts of citizens across our state who have let their representatives know how that this bill needs to become law.” said Martha Jenkins, President of the North Carolina Federation of Republican Women. “However, we still don’t have a law because it needs to also pass the Senate. I call upon the members of the Senate to treat this with the same importance as their counterparts in the House,” continued President Jenkins. “Until North Carolina strengthens our laws against sexual predators, our children remain at risk.”

If the NC Senate fails to act on HB933 before they adjourn this year, NC children are still at risk. “Please Senator Basnight and Senator Rand, please handle this bill that the House has passed before you go home for the year,” President Jenkins added. “Our children are depending on you.”

If the bill is not taken up this year by the Senate, it can be brought before them next year in the “Short Session.” Failure to pass the bill in 2008 would mean that the bill would be dead until a newly elected legislature convenes in January 2009.

The NCFRW is a statewide organization consisting of over 2000 members and over 60 clubs. Its members recruit and train candidates, run campaigns, and speak out for conservative causes. NCFRW is a member of the National Federation of Republican Women, which has taken on the passage of Jessica’s Law in every state as its primary legislative goal.

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  MONDAY, JULY 23, 2007

As a broadcast journalist and national disability advocate, I am saddened by a criminal's approach to use the disability trump card and play-act that he is retarded. I was a teen mom of a son with neurological brain damage and intellectually challenged. This case fuels the stereotype of what persons with low IQs are capable of doing to innocent children. Like my son, millions of persons with intellectual challenges are working hard to attain regular high school degrees and find employment in their community to reach their goal of someday living independently. I know thousands of persons with intellectual disabilities, and not one has ever been charged with a crime ... let alone such a horrifying assault on a young girl. ...

The pain Jessica's family endures extends out to other families throughout the state of Florida. It also makes the work of disability advocates much more difficult to defend its population from the media's perception of what a "retarded" person is capable of doing, which was the killer's defense for such a savage act.

Please help mothers who give birth and raise special needs children correct the misconceptions of persons with disabilities. Whether Republican like me, or Democrat, we must advocate for more understanding and an end to the discrimination against persons with intellectual disabilities. Remember, disabilities are a natural part of life.

Sincerely,
Rose Lee Archer


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  WEDNESDAY, JULY 18, 2007

Dead Girl's Father Confronts Killer
By PHIL DAVIS, AP

INVERNESS, Fla. - The man convicted of kidnapping and raping 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford before swaddling her in garbage bags and burying her alive in his yard was likely faking mentally retardation in earlier tests, a court-appointed psychologist said Tuesday.

John Evander Couey, 48, who spent part of his murder trial earlier this year drawing in coloring books, "is not mentally retarded," clinical psychologist Gregory Prichard testified at a pre-sentencing hearing Tuesday. Prichard said the convicted killer has an IQ of 78, slightly above the 70 level generally considered retarded.

At the end of Tuesday's seven-hour pre-sentencing hearing, Jessica's father, Mark Lunsford, took the witness stand and spoke directly to the man convicted of killing his daughter.

"I hope you hear her cries as you try to sleep at night," Lunsford said, wiping tears. "I hope you see the tears run down her face as she asked you to go home. I hope you spend the rest of your life in fear of death. You will never hurt another child."

Lunsford then asked Circuit Judge Richard Howard to sentence Couey to death.

Sentencing has tentatively been set for Aug. 10.

Howard must first weigh the prosecution and defense arguments on Couey's mental competence. A 2002 U.S. Supreme Court ruling prohibits the execution of mentally retarded people.

During more than six hours of testimony, Prichard said it is easier to fake mental retardation than intelligence. He said standardized tests and interviews showed Couey was intelligent enough to manage money, take care of himself and even keep secrets.

Assistant Public Defender Daniel Lewan spent most of the hearing hours challenging Prichard's assessment. Lewan said other experts have shown Couey is mildly retarded with an IQ of 64. He asked the judge to rely on the earlier testimony.

Lewan is trying to get a life sentence. Prosecutors want Couey executed.

In March, a Miami jury brushed aside Lewan's pleas for mercy, voting 10-2 to recommend that Couey be executed for Jessica's slaying. Florida law puts the final sentencing decision in the hands of a judge, who must give great weight to a jury recommendation.

The jury convicted Couey of taking Jessica in February 2005 from her bedroom to his nearby trailer, where he raped her and buried her alive. Despite a massive search, the third-grader's body was found about three weeks after she disappeared in a grave in Couey's yard, about 150 yards from her own home.

Couey, already a convicted sex offender when he committed the crime, was arrested in Georgia and confessed to the killing. That confession was thrown out as evidence because Couey did not have a lawyer present.

The trial was moved to Miami because of intense media coverage in Citrus County.


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  WEDNESDAY, JUNE 6, 2007

Oklahoma "Jessica's Law" Cracking Down on Sex Offenders Signed:
HB 1816 A Key Measure in House GOP's 2007 Legislative Agenda

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Contact: Oklahoma State Rep. David Dank, (405) 557-7392

OKLAHOMA CITY (June 5, 2007) - A measure to increase required prison sentences for sex offenders who prey on children was signed into law on Tuesday, capping months of legislative effort by the House Republican majority to make Oklahoma a safer state.

House Bill 1816 would increase the penalty for sex offenses against children under 12 to a minimum sentence of 25 years and not more than life imprisonment. No minimum sentence currently exists for such offenses.

The measure is a key part of the Safe Families platform in the House GOP's 2007 Year of Ideas Agenda.

"I commend the governor for signing this important legislation, which is designed to protect our children and grandchildren from sexual predators," said state Rep. David Dank, R-Oklahoma City, the bill's principal author. "With this new law, we are insisting that those who would prey on the innocent will receive substantial mandatory sentences. There can be only one response by a civilized society to those who would victimize the most innocent and vulnerable among us. With the signing into law of House Bill 1816, that response is now clear. This newly enacted law sends a strong message to sexual predators that Oklahoma will impose the strongest possible penalties on them, and that they will spend most, if not all, of their lives in prison."

Dank's HB 1816 is modeled after Florida legislation commonly referred to as "Jessica's Law" that has already been enacted in states across the nation. The law was named after Jessica Lunsford, a 9-year-old Florida girl who was kidnapped and killed by a registered sex offender who had been living near her.

A similar measure passed the Oklahoma House overwhelmingly last year but died in the State Senate.

Dank said he was gratified to see the bill become law this year.

"It's a simple and effective concept, and now this new law will help protect children across this state," he said.


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  FRIDAY, JUNE 1, 2007

Montana Passes Jessica's Law

A special thanks to the Montana Federation of Republican Women for helping pass their version of Jessica’s Law. Good work!

Montana's version of Jessica's Law passed the House 95-5 and the Senate 39-11. The bill is modeled after a Florida law passed in the wake of nine-year-old Jessica Lunsford's kidnapping, rape and murder in 2005. It requires 25-year minimum prison sentences for adults convicted of various sex crimes against children under 13. Supporters say the bill sends a message that Montana will not tolerate sex offenders.


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  MONDAY, MAY 21, 2007

Governor signs bill closing loophole in Jessica's Law

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Gov. Kathleen Sebelius this morning signed legislation closing a loophole in Jessica's Law, passed by legislators last year to impose tougher penalties on sex crimes.

Sebelius signed a bill closing a loophole in the law that allowed some second-time offenders to be treated as first-time offenders. The change ensures that second-time offenders will be subject to the "hard 40" sentence -- 40 years behind bars without any consideration for early release.

The new law also expands the list of sex offenses that quality a second-time offender for the "hard 40" to include offenses in effect prior to the effective date of Jessica's Law.

© 2007 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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  THURSDAY, MAY 17, 2007

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Oklahoma State Senate, Communications Division


Oklahoma Senate Approves Jessica's Law

A law to ensure child predators will spend more time behind bars is on its way to Gov. Brad Henry.  The full Senate voted 45-2 in favor of House Bill 1816 on Thursday.  The measure, also known as “Jessica’s Law” is named for 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford.  The Florida girl was kidnapped and murdered in 2005 by a registered sex offender who lived near her family home.       

Sen. Todd Lamb, Senate author of HB 1816, said the legislation targets predators who seek out children younger than 12.

 “Currently, there is no minimum sentence for these child molesters,” said Lamb, R-Edmond.  “HB 1816 calls for a minimum 25 years in prison for anyone convicted of sexually abusing or exploiting a child under 12.  The longer these monsters are behind bars, the safer our children will be.”

Rep. David Dank, House author of the bill, was pleased that the measure had cleared its final legislative hurdle.

"I am delighted the Senate passed 'Jessica's Law' by such a large margin," said Dank, R-Oklahoma City. "I feel confident Governor Henry will support this legislation that is so important to the safety and well-being of our youngsters."

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  MONDAY, MAY 7, 2007

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Martha Jenkins, 919-619-3493
www.ncfederationofrepublicanwomen.org


Mark Lunsford Shares Story, Advocates for Passage of Jessica Lunsford Act

Mark Lunsford, whose 8 year old daughter Jessica Lunsford was abducted, raped, and murdered in Florida in 2005, spoke to legislators and members of the North Carolina Federation of Republican Women (NCFRW) today in Raleigh at the North Carolina General Assembly.

Mr. Lunsford is committed to seeing that the Jessica Lunsford Act or its equivalent is passed in all 50 states. “No parent should have to experience what I’ve experienced,” Mark said. “Sexual predators need to be given a strong message – we don’t want you here,” he continued. “It is imperative that violent sex offenders are incarcerated for a very long time, where they can’t molest our children.”

HB 933, The Jessica Lunsford Act of NC, is currently being considered by the House Judiciary II committee, chaired by Rep. Dan Blue. Sponsored by Rep. Tim Moore, Rep. Julia Howard, Rep. Debbie Clary, and Rep. Charles Thomas, the act would require a mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years (without parole) to life for first time offenders and it would expand GPS monitoring of sex offenders once released from prison.

Mr. Lunsford spent the day visiting legislators and telling them why the bill should be passed. “If these tough laws had been in place in Florida in 2005, my daughter would still be alive,” he ventured. The man who murdered Jessica Lunsford, John Couey, was sentenced to 10 years for lewd and lascivious molestation of a child, but only served two of those years. “If the Florida law had been then what it is today, John Couey would have been in prison instead of on the streets looking for his next victim,” added Lunsford.

“It is time for NC to provide the protection that 29 other states are providing our children,” stated Martha Jenkins, NCFRW President. “If we don’t, then our state will be a haven for sexual predators.” Polls show that North Carolinians favor this legislation in large numbers.

The NCFRW is a statewide organization consisting of over 2000 members and over 60 clubs. Its members recruit and train candidates, run campaigns, and speak out for conservative causes. NCFRW is a member of the National Federation of Republican Women, which has taken on the passage of Jessica’s Law in every state as it’s primary legislative goal.

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  MONDAY, APRIL 23, 2007

Update From Idaho FRW on Jessica's Law

By Melinda S. Smyser, IFRW President

Idaho has completed a side-by-side comparison on current laws and Jessica's Law. A house committee also has taken it under advisement and is completing a study this year. Additionally, several women legislators are working on this law, including state Reps. Marge Chadderdon and Sharon Block.

IFRW has formed a legislative committee which will research and discuss the issue and report back to the IFRW board at the fall meeting in October.


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  MONDAY, APRIL 16, 2007

Update From Pennsylvania FRW on Jessica's Law

By MaryAnn O. Garvey, PFRW President

This important piece of legislation was approved by the entire state general assembly in the 2006 legislative session and is now in effect. Pennsylvania’s law sets a minimum of 10 years in prison for anyone over 18 years of age convicted of sexually assaulting a child under 16. There is a 25 year prison term for a second offense, and the law mandates life for anyone convicted a third time. The senate version of the bill was sponsored by state Sen. John Rafferty, and the prime sponsor was state Sen. Jane Orie.

A resolution urging passage of this legislation was passed at PFRW’s annual convention in September 2006. Members also lobbied state legislators in an effort to ensure the measure’s approval.


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  TUESDAY, APRIL 10, 2007

Update From Wisconsin FRW on Jessica's Law

By Ginny Marschman, WFRW President

In Wisconsin, Jessica’s Law carries a mandatory penalty of 25 years in prison for raping any child under the age of 16. It was signed by the governor in June 2006. Credit goes to the lead authors: Republican state Reps. Suder, Honadel, and Kleefisch, and state Sens. Darling and Zien. WFRW is watching and prepared to send out action alerts regarding a challenge to the GPS tracking system of the state’s most dangerous child rapists. Democrat Governor Doyle, who signed the bill, is now threatening to gut the bill by cutting the spending and limiting who gets monitored. Republican legislators traveled to Kansas recently to study its GPS system and found that the biggest reason GPS is affordable is because Kansas outsources the monitoring with only nine new state workers hired.


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  MONDAY, APRIL 9, 2007

New Mexico FRW Implements Successful Jessica's Law Plan

NOTE FROM NFRW: According to Bill O'Reilly, the situation in New Mexico regarding Jessica’s Law is inconclusive. As a result, the New Mexico FRW decided to participate in the NFRW initiative aimed at passing Jessica’s Law in every state. Below is a statement from NMFRW President Jo Mitchell. She describes their plan and the outcome. This plan is useful to other states who want to participate in the initiative. Good job, NMFRW!

By Jo Mitchell, NMFRW President

Last October after the NMFRW Board of Directors voted to go forward with this initiative, we found sponsors in the State Senate and State House. We had good sponsors and they worked with us all through the session. We gave them the materials that we had accumulated on Jessica's Law and they took them to the writers of legislation. While there were some things we might have wished were stronger in the bill, the guidance we got was very good.

The New Mexico Legislature has been in the hands of the Democrats for years and the chairmen of the committees are often trial lawyers. We had identical bills going through the House and Senate. The House bill was the first to move and it made slow progress all the way through two House committees and was passed on the floor of the House. Then on its trip through the Senate, it was bogged down in the Senate Judiciary Committee. The Senate bill also was bogged down in the Senate Judiciary Committee but eventually our sponsor found a Democrat lawyer who had a similar bill and they compromised on putting the two bills together. They finally got it out of the Senate Judiciary Committee only to be assigned another committee -- the finance committee because of the GPS monitors the bill required. In the final two days of the sixty-day session, they moved it through that committee and managed to pass it on the floor of the Senate in the final hours of the session. The Governor signed it into law on March 17, 2007.

The bill defines all criminal sexual penetration perpetrated on a child less than nine years of age with intent to kill or with a depraved mind, as aggravated criminal sexual penetration, and all criminal sexual penetration perpetrated on a child less than thirteen years of age as first-degree criminal sexual penetrations for which the basic sentence is life imprisonment. Life in New Mexico is 30 years. In reading the wording of the law, we are still trying to determine how "mandatory" the sentence is.

Second, third and fourth degrees of criminal sexual penetration are defined in the law with varying sentences.

An inmate sentenced to life imprisonment becomes eligible for parole after he has served thirty years of the sentence. The law requires electronic real-time monitoring (GPS Monitors) of every sex offender released on parole for the entire time the sex offender is on parole.

One of our problems was to keep supporters of our bill at the hearings. Our Santa Fe club provided the majority of that support since the schedule is very indefinite. The rest of the clubs did a fantastic job of emailing and calling the legislators when the notice went out that the committees would be hearing the bill. While some of the legislative committee members sometimes opposed the bills, we usually had the majority of the audience on our side.

We do not consider this a completed job. We will be reviewing the bill and looking at places where we find it needs to be strengthened. We feel very fortunate to have accomplished this in our first attempt.


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  THURSDAY, APRIL 5, 2007

Maryland House Passes Jessica's Law

(AP) ANNAPOLIS, Md. The Maryland House of Delegates passed a bill Monday to prevent parole eligibility for adults who sexually assault a child under 13.

The bill is called Jessica's Law. Under the measure, people convicted of a first, second or third-degree sex offense against a child under 13 would not be eligible for parole while serving the minimum mandatory part of their sentences.

This year's measure strengthens a bill passed during a special session last year by keeping sex offenders in prison longer.

(© 2007 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. )


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  WEDNESDAY, MARCH 7, 2007

Jury Finds Man Guilty in Jessica Lunsford's Murder

On Wednesday, March 7, a Florida jury found convicted sex offender John Couey guilty of the murder of nine-year-old Jessica Lunsford.

Jessica's brutal murder in 2005 prompted the Florida legislature to pass the Jessica Lunsford Act in an effort to toughen penalties for sexual offenders through mandatory minimum sentencing, lifetime supervision and electronic monitoring, increased registration and reporting requirements, and other measures. More than half of the states have passed similar legislation, often referred to as Jessica's Law.

The NFRW is advocating the passage of Jessica's Law in every state. With the support of Jessica's father, Mark Lunsford, and the Jessica Marie Lunsford Foundation, the NFRW has launched a comprehensive issue advocacy program which is being implemented at the state level by the NFRW’s state federations. The program gives state federations the tools to advocate for the passage of Jessica’s Law or its equivalent in every state, and also calls for monitoring the enforcement of the legislation once it is passed.

To read more about the NFRW's program, click here.


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  WEDNESDAY, MARCH 7, 2007

Republican Party of Texas Chairman Benkiser Applauds House GOP Leadership
for Taking Child Predators Off the Streets

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Hans Klingler at 512/477-9821

AUSTIN - Today, Republican Party of Texas Chairman Tina Benkiser applauded Republican leaders in the Texas House of Representatives for passing the “Jessica’s Law” legislation. This legislation would strongly expand the criminal penalties for sexually assaulting a child.

“The Republican leadership in the Texas Legislature put sexual predators in this state on notice today. If you hurt our kids, you could suffer the ultimate penalty, the loss of your life,” said Tina Benkiser, Chairman of the Republican Party of Texas.

In 2005, 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford was abducted from her Florida home, sexually assaulted, and murdered by a convicted sex offender. States across the nation have been enacting stricter penalties for sex crimes against children. House Bill 8 authored by Debbie Riddle (R-Houston) and supported in a bipartisan manner would enact very strict penalties when dealing with persons who are convicted of sexually violent offenses against children.

“We must send a zero-tolerance message to predators that prey on our kids. The children of Texas are too important. Don’t mess with them.” Benkiser warned.

House Bill 8 will now go over to the Texas Senate where it will be considered along with the legislative efforts by Republican State Senators to address “Jessica’s Law."

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  THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 22, 2007

'Jessica's Law' Bill Filed on Legislative Fast Track
Death Penalty for Repeat Child Predators is Proposed

By John Moritz - Fort Worth Star-Telegram

AUSTIN -- A bill named after a Florida girl who was abducted, raped and killed would subject repeat child predators to the death penalty.

Senate Bill 5, formally introduced in the Texas Senate on Wednesday by Robert Deuell, R-Greenville, has the strong backing of Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who sets the Senate's agenda, and Gov. Rick Perry has placed it on the legislative fast track. That means it would go into law as soon as it is passed and signed.

Key provisions

Require mandatory prison sentences of 25 years to life for a first-time violent sexual offense against a child under age 14.

Mandate lifetime monitoring using global-positioning technology for child sex offenders.

Allow prosecutors to seek the death penalty for a second sexually violent offense against a child under age 14.

Double the statute of limitations on sexual crimes against children from 10 to 20 years.

Why call it "Jessica's Law"?

The measure is named for 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford, who was abducted from her Florida home, raped and slain in early 2005. The trial of John Couey, a 48-year-old convicted sex offender who has told police he committed the crimes, began this week in Miami. The case has received national attention and has prompted tougher child sex-offender laws in more than two dozen states, according to Dewhurst's office.

A contrary viewpoint

Some, including America's Most Wanted host John Walsh, have expressed concern that the death-penalty provision might be excessive or that a two-time predator might be more likely to kill his victim because the initial attack had already triggered the death penalty. Walsh is supportive of the overall intention of the bill.

The backers' counterpoint

"By strengthening our laws against child predators, we are sending a clear message to those who would hurt our children: not in Texas," Dewhurst said. "And to those who don't get the message, justice will be severe."


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  WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 14, 2007

Will Maryland Finally get Serious about Sexual Predators?

The MFRW lobbies for stronger “Jessica’s Law” bills in Maryland; Jury Selection for Lunsford trial continues in Florida; New California law limits sex offenders’ access to schools & parks

Annapolis, MD – February 13, 2007 -- The horror of the death of Jessica Lunsford has resonated with child-loving people across the United States. This vivacious 9-yr old from Central Florida, whose favorite colors were pink and purple, was abducted and sexually assaulted two years ago and then brutally murdered by a repeat offender.

This week, jury selection is underway for the trial of the man who allegedly murdered her. “Jessica’s Law” is the vehicle that concerned citizens across the United States have adopted to protect the children in their communities from sexual predators.

“Jessica’s Law” refers to the Jessica Lunsford Act, passed in Florida, which mandates a minimum sentence of 25 years and a maximum of life in prison for first-time child sex offenders. The original law was enacted in Florida in 2005. Since Florida enacted Jessica’s Law, Florida’s repeat offender rate has dropped from 34 percent to 2 percent.

In the wake of Jessica’s death, thirty-nine other states followed Florida’s lead. At the end of 2006, Maryland was one of only 10 states which did not provide children with “Jessica’s Law” level protection from predators. “While the 2006 Maryland law did impose a mandatory minimum sentence, it did not prohibit parole and did not deal with 3rd degree sex offenses,” says Ella Ennis, Legislative Director for the MFRW.

Maryland legislators currently have bills in the House of Delegates (HB 930) and in the Senate (SB 413) to increase protection for Maryland’s children. And organizations such as the Maryland Federation of Republican Women are working very hard to demonstrate to elected officials the broad public bipartisan support for these measures.

“The question right now is: Can we get these bills out of Committee? “ says Patt Parker, President of the MFRW. Adds Parker: “ Senator Brian Frosh, Chair of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, and Delegate Joe Vallario, Chair of the House Judiciary Committee, have the opportunity to do the right thing for our children. We are encouraging them to bring HB 930 and SB 413 out for a vote.”

Hearings for SB 413, are scheduled for 1 pm on March 14th in Annapolis.
Many people are under the impression that we passed a Jessica’s Law last year and that further legislation is not needed. There was an amendment that passed in Special Session last year that increased mandatory sentencing for convicted sex offenders. “But, that was not enough,” states Parker. “It did not bring our state up to the standards set by Florida’s “Jessica’s Law.” HB 930 and SB 413, introduced this year, would take us a step further by eliminating the possibility of parole.”

Parker continues, “Women from the MFRW across the state have been working hard to support these bills. We’ve contacted our elected officials to educate them on the provisions that are needed. We’ve held community meetings and encouraged letter-writing. We’ve scheduled meetings with our State’s attorneys. And we’ve been joined by men and women, Republican and Democrat, from local organizations such as Kiwanis, and the Maryland Commission for Women to get out the word,” says Parker.

“There is a very narrow window in which legislators are going to make their decisions,” said Sylvia Darrow, Chair of the Montgomery County Federation of Republican Women. “Our elected officials need to know that voters really care about this issue. Otherwise, these bills will not get passed.” Darrow says women from Montgomery County’s Republican clubs have joined forces with other groups to register support for the bills. The Potomac Women’s Republican Club had a letter-writing session last week.

Over on the Eastern shore, the sentiment is the same. “It’s important for people to understand that, while current laws on the books answer some of the concerns posed by people who want the “true” Jessica’s law, that mandatory sentences and parole rules must be strengthened,” says Roseann Bridgman, 2nd VP of MFRW from Ocean Pines.

"As research shows, child sex offenders repeat their crimes, and repetition of these crimes cannot be tolerated.”
“We’re urging people across the state to contact their delegates and senators as soon as possible to register support of HB 930 and SB 413,” said Diana Larmore, Public Relations Chair for the MFRW. If you have a question about how to reach your delegates and senators or if you want to look up their names, click on www.mlis.state.md.us .

Note: On Friday a California law was passed. The law prohibits registered sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a school or park, effectively banning paroled sex offenders from many California communities. It also requires lifetime satellite tracking for some paroled sex criminals upon their release from prison.

##

For further information, contact:
Diana Larmore at: 443-226-4764, diana@dianalarmore.com
Ella Ennis at: eee437@comcast.net
Patt Parker at: 443-624-3116, patt.parker@comcast.net
Sylvia Darrow at: gsylvie@aol.com
Roseann Bridgman at: 410-641-7243, RosnBridgm@aol.com


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  TUESDAY, DECEMBER 19, 2006

SENATOR AUSTRIA WINS OVERWHELMING SUPPORT FOR “JESSICA’S LAW” IN OHIO
Bill requires mandatory prison sentences for sex offenders

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Jocelyn Andras

COLUMBUS – Sex offenders who abuse children will receive mandatory long-term prison sentences under legislation passed today by the Ohio Legislature. Senate Bill 260, sponsored by State Senator Steve Austria (R-Beavercreek), is Ohio’s version of “Jessica’s Law,” named for 9-year-old Jessica Marie Lunsford, who was violently raped and murdered by a known sex offender who resided within her Florida neighborhood.

Mark Lunsford, Jessica’s father and founder of the Jessica Marie Lunsford Foundation, traveled to Columbus and testified in support of Senate Bill 260 before both the House and Senate Committees. Mr. Lunsford, an Ohio native, has been a tireless and convincing advocate on making sex offender laws more stringent.

Senate Bill 260 ensures a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years to life for persons convicted of rape when the victim is under the age of 13 and 15 years to life when the victim in under 10. In addition, it applies a mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years to life for those cases where the perpetrator uses force, serious physical harm, has a prior or is labeled a sexually violent predator. If convicted under the previous circumstances when the victim is under 10, sex offenders will receive mandatory life without parole.

“By strengthening mandatory minimum prison sentences on those individuals convicted of rape and attempted rape of children under 13, we are sending a strong message to sexually violent criminals that we will no longer step back and watch the lives of our children be stolen through these vicious acts,” Senator Austria stated.

S.B.260 also prohibits courts from awarding custody of a child to any household in which a registered sex offender resides. The bill also increases the penalty against those convicted of importuning, or actively soliciting sex from a minor, to a third-degree felony and a second degree felony on repeat offences.

In addition to stricter sentencing guidelines, the bill also enables judges to require sex offenders to wear GPS monitoring devices upon their release, which has proven to be an effective deterrent. In fact, Mark Lunsford testified that the man who killed his daughter had been required to wear the same GPS monitoring system until just a month before her death. While wearing the device, he committed no known sex offenses and had he continued, perhaps Jessica would still be alive today.

S.B.260 also creates a study commission to recommend statutory changes that will be necessary for the implementation of the Federal Adam Walsh Child Safety and Protection Act, H.R. 4472. The Adam Walsh Child Safety and Protection Act, which passed Congress earlier this year, mandates the establishment of a comprehensive national system for the registration of sex offenders.

Nearly half of all sexual assault cases nationwide involve children under the age of 13, according to data released from the United States Justice Department (USJD). Additional statistics from the USJD show that sex offenders are 7.5 times more likely than other violent criminals to reoffend.

“Our ultimate goal with this legislation is to protect every child in Ohio from those who prey against them. To continue to allow our children to be exposed or to become victims is unacceptable,” Senator Austria said.

S.B. 260 has passed both the Senate and the Ohio House of Representatives and is currently awaiting the Governor’s signature. The bill will become effective immediately upon the Governor’s signature.

-30-


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  TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 28, 2006

Jessica's Law in California
BY LAURISSA CARMICHAEL, LEGISLATIVE ADVOCATE, advocate@cfrw.org

The passage of Jessica’s Law in California by 70% of the voters shows that California takes the safety of children very seriously. The fact that Jessica’s Law was an overwhelming victory should send a very clear message to sexual predators that this state would not make it easy for them to repeat their offenses.

The law ensures that predators serve a FULL sentence. When released they will be permanently monitored using a bracelet or anklet that has GPS capabilities. Additionally, the proximity to schools and parks that these predators are allowed to live also increases to 2,000 feet. The passage of Jessica’s Law closes many of the loopholes from previous laws passed.

As with any tough-on-crime law that is passed, there is dissent. In spite of Jessica’s Law being retroactive, two lawsuits have been filed by, of all people, convicted pedophiles. These “John Doe’s” (their names are kept confidential to protect their safety) claim that Jessica’s Law infringes on their rights.

“John Doe” #1 fears the new law means he will have to wear the GPS bracelet for the rest of his life and will never be able to live within 2,000 feet of a school or park. Doe #1 committed a sexual offence more than 20 years ago; however, he is now on parole for failing to register as a sex offender. Thus, he would have to wear the GPS bracelet as a "new" parolee.

“John Doe” #2 claims that he will have to move because he lives 1,700 feet away from a school. This distance was legal in October, but now violates the current law.

The California Federation of Republican Women are very pleased that Jessica’s Law passed, and it is a relief to know that pedophiles will have a very challenging time repeating their crime, once they are released into society.

Sadly, it is very upsetting when pedophiles say that their rights and liberties are being violated. It seems like a courtesy just to let them out of prison! When a pedophile commits a crime, they are taking the rights and liberties away from a child. The passage of Jessica’s Law sends a strong message to pedophiles that we will not tolerate their abuse of children.


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  FRIDAY, OCTOBER 27, 2006

Dear Alyssa (Farmer, Mississippi FRW President):

I write to provide you information, per your request, concerning Mississippi's laws protecting minors from sexual predators.

First, existing law makes it a crime, with very stiff penalties, for an adult to have sex with someone less than sixteen (16) years of age. Further, the age of consent is eighteen (18) years of age, as opposed to sixteen (16), if the predator is a person in a position of trust or authority over the child, including a child's teacher, counselor, physician, psychiatrist, psychologist, minister, priest, physical therapist, chiropractor, legal guardian, parent, step-parent, aunt, uncle, scout leader, or a coach.

Further, persons convicted of a sex offense must be registered on a sex offender registry maintained by the Department of Public Safety for a substantial period of time after completing their sentence. The minimum time period is ten (10) years. Further, a bill I authored a couple of years ago, and which is now law, prohibits a person on the sex offender registry from working any place where he/she has regular exposure to children (daycare center, sports league, school, etc.). Further, this law makes it a felony crime for such an employer to hire a person listed on the sex offender registry.

In the 2006 session, I introduced a bill known as "Jessica's Law" which greatly strengthens Mississippi's sex offender laws substantially. The bill was passed by both the Senate and the House, and signed by the Governor. The Bill requires additional information from sex offenders who are required to register on the sex offender registry. It also prohibits registered sex offenders from living within 1500 feet of a school or daycare information about a sex offender. It also makes it a felony crime for someone to conspire with a sex offender to elude registration or to provide false registration information. Further, before a sex offender can be taken off the sex offender registry, the District Attorney must be notified so that he can oppose the sex offender's request for removal.

Most significantly, the 2006 Jessica's Law changes Mississippi law to require that a sex offender who is convicted of a sex offense where the victim was fourteen (14) years of age or younger will be required to register on the registry for life and the 2006 Jessica's Law also provides judges with authority to require sex offenders to wear GPS bracelets as a condition of any probation that is a part of their sentence.

As you can see, Mississippi has very stringent laws concerning sex offenders, especially with the passage of the 2006 Jessica's Law. In my judgment, protecting our children is a paramount responsibility. I am proud that the Mississippi Legislature passed Jessica's Law this year.

Sincerely,

Charlie Ross
State Senator, District 20

CER/ddp


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  THURSDAY, OCTOBER 19, 2006
BY CONNIE RAGAN

Jessie's Room

In her room, once again, I find myself
Savoring memories that we shared
Drained and disoriented
My body collapses in the chair

Tears roll down my face
As I fight back the anger
Raging still inside of me
As I silently linger

Gritting my teeth
My eyes closed tight
I try to forget
That dreadful night

Yearning to change it
I give into a dream
As I fall into a trance
My insides wanting to scream

That familiar voice once again
Comes to me as I weep
Reminding me of the promise
In her memory I must keep

Opening my tear-filled eyes
In a blur
I glance at the remaining
Memories of her

Realizing her purpose
Has not been fulfilled
Much work to be done
I am needed still

I lift my weary body
Taking one last look around
Gaining strength from Jessie who inspires me
When my own strength can’t be found

Once again, rejuvenated
I quietly close her bedroom door
And go on, to give her life meaning
Like she was never known before


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  THURSDAY, OCTOBER 12, 2006
BY MARTHA JENKINS, NORTH CAROLINA FRW PRESIDENT

NFRW Pledges to Help Pass Jessica’s Law in Every State

Martha Jenkins, president of the North Carolina FRW, wrote the below letter in response to an article in Raleigh’s The News and Observer. The letter was published October 11, 2006.

To the Editor:

State Democrat Party Chairman Jerry Meek (“Under the Dome”, Oct 5, 2006) wants to have North Carolinians believe that N.C. Democrats passed “some of the toughest child protection laws in the country." This is a claim that should not go unchallenged.

In the legislative session that just ended, Republicans Julia Howard and Tim Moore introduced HB 1921. This bill was the N.C. equivalent of Florida’s “Jessica’s Law,” named after former Gastonia resident Jessica Lunsford, who was kidnapped from her home and murdered by a convicted child predator. The Howard/Moore bill would have included a mandatory 25 year minimum sentence for lewd and lascivious sex offenses. HB 1921 was never heard in the Democrat controlled committee. One Democrat legislator even suggested to us that North Carolina couldn’t afford the prison space that would be required with the 25 year sentence!

The legislation that passed, HB 1896, took on a life of its own and was strengthened because of the pressure put on legislators by the public, including the membership of the North Carolina Federation of Republican Women, but HB 1896 did not go far enough. During our efforts to get Jessica’s Law (HB 1921) passed, we stated on numerous occasions that this legislation was too important to play partisan politics with, and our goal was to get the bill passed, regardless of who got the credit.

North Carolina’s children deserve more than lip service from Democrat legislators; they deserve to be fully protected from sexual predators regardless of the cost.

Martha Jenkins
President, N.C. Federation of Republican Women
Chapel Hill, NC


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  SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 9, 2006
BY NFRW STAFF

NFRW Pledges to Help Pass Jessica’s Law in Every State

At its fall board of directors meeting, the National Federation of Republican Women (NFRW) pledged to continue working to ensure Jessica’s Law is passed in every state.

More than 150 Republican women from across the country gathered in Indianapolis Sept. 8-9 to meet with Mark Lunsford, father of the girl for whom Jessica’s Law is named. In 2005, nine-year-old Jessica Lunsford was kidnapped, sexually assaulted and murdered by a convicted sex offender in Florida.

The Jessica Lunsford Act was passed in Florida later that year in an effort to toughen penalties for sexual offenders through mandatory minimum sentencing, lifetime supervision and electronic monitoring, increased registration and reporting requirements, and other measures.

“More than 24 states have passed Jessica’s Law or equivalent legislation,” Lunsford told the group. “But several states still need a lot of work. Many have only passed weak legislation with loopholes, legislation that makes people feel good, but that does no good. Jessica’s Law is the most powerful legislation to date to protect our children.”

With the support of Lunsford and the Jessica Marie Lunsford Foundation, the NFRW has launched a comprehensive issue advocacy program which will be implemented at the state level by the NFRW’s state federations. The program gives state federations the tools to advocate for the passage of Jessica’s Law or its equivalent in every state, and also calls for monitoring the enforcement of the legislation once it is passed.


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