'Jessica's Law' fails again before Colorado lawmakers

9-year-old Jessica Lunsford raped, killed in 2005

DENVER - An attempt to create "Jessica's Law" in Colorado has failed again at the State Capitol.

Jessica's Law is named for 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford. She was raped and killed in Florida in 2005 by a convicted sex offender who had already served his sentence.

Her father, Mark, has been in Colorado before when previous attempts to pass Jessica's Law also failed.

Jessica's Law would make it a minimum 25 years in prison for a sex assault against a child younger than 14, if the suspect is seven or more years older. It also requires monitoring of the person after they're released from prison.

The bill, sponsored by State Rep. Libby Szabo, R-Arvada, failed in its first committee with all seven Democrats voting 'no' and four Republicans voting 'yes.'

"I didn't think it would fail so miserably," Lunsford told 7NEWS. "This is if you physically harm this child. Why shouldn't someone get 25 to life?"

Currently in Colorado, simple sexual assault comes with a sentence of two years to live in prison. The sentence for sexual assault with physical harm is four years to life in prison. Sexual assault with a deadly weapon, serious bodily injury or an accomplice comes with a sentence of eight years to life in prison.

"If your laws are so tough and so good here, why are your repeat offenders repeating their offenses?" said Lunsford. "I want to close the gaps and the loopholes in the system."

"We have those minimum numbers set pretty low in the state. I would like to see them go up," said Erin Jemison, executive director of Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault.

Jemison's organization did not establish a position in support of the bill, but commended the attempt to hold offenders accountable. She explained how a minimum 25 year sentence could impact the reporting of some sexual assaults by victims who know their attacker.

"When those people in that child's life know about really harsh sentences like this, I think they are even more likely to discourage that person from coming forward," said Jemison.

"We've actually been on the pioneering front on this since 1998 with the Lifetime Supervision Act," said State Rep. Jovan Melton, D-Aurora.

Under Colorado law, the majority of those convicted of sex assault can be monitored for life after they've been released from prison.

Melton also suggested the bill failed this time around because it did not have Colorado support.

"None of the proponents were from Colorado. So, I think this is a conversation that Coloradans need to have," said Melton.

He also pointed out the history of previous attempts at passing Jessica's Law.

"This law has been introduced several times before, but why wasn't it introduced while the Republicans had the majority? It's only been introduced while the Democrats have had the majority," said Melton.

In 2009, State Rep. Laura Bradford, R-Collbran, and State. Sen. Mark Scheffel, R-Parker, sponsored the bill to put child sex offenders in prison for at least 20 years. It failed in its first committee.

In 2007, State. Rep. Frank McNulty, R-Highlands Ranch and State Sen. Josh Penry, R-Grand Junction, sponsored the bill which called for a minimum of 15 years in prison. It also failed in its first committee. At that time, the cost of housing additional prisoners was cited as a reason the bill failed.

Print this article Back to Top