DENVER (CBS4) – Some Colorado lawmakers say there’s no need to increase penalties for people who attack young children. What’s known as “Jessica’s Law,” named after a Florida girl sexually assaulted and killed, won’t become law in the state.
The same bill has failed four times now in Colorado. Democrats oppose it so much so this year they sent it to the so-called “kill committee.” Still, Jessica’s father, Mark Lunsford, traveled to Colorado from Florida and begged lawmakers to pass the bill.
“I kneeled down and I hugged her and I kissed her and told her I’d see her later,” Lunsford said.
Lunsford sat before Colorado lawmakers and cried as he recounted his darkest hour.
“And the lump just starts to grow and your heart just kind of stops beating,” he said.
Eight years ago in February his 9-year-old daughter Jessica was kidnapped, sexually assaulted and buried alive by a man who had been arrested twice for sexually assaulting children; and yet had been released from parole.
“For those three days my little girl was tied with speaker wire and put into a closet,” Lunsford said.
“I want to send a strong message to our communities that we will not tolerate these crimes,” said Rep. Libby Szabo, R-Arvada.
Szabo is the sponsor of the bill. Jessica’s Law would require a minimum prison sentence of 25 years for anyone convicted of sexually assaulting a child under 14.
The Colorado Defense Lawyers Association opposed the bill, saying Colorado already has strong laws in place.
“The courts and prosecutors have been able to respond given the tools they already have,” an official with the Colorado Defense Lawyers Association said.
The minimum sentences under those laws range from two to 16 years. It’s at the discretion of the judges.
“We hear about all this discretion and recidivism rate. How many times do these children have to go through it before somebody does something,” Lunsford said.
But Democrats have opposed the bill time and again, and with the majority vote, killed it.
“It’s a one-size-fits-all solution and sometimes one size does not fit all,” said Rep. Mike Foote, D-Longmont.
Lunsford says he’s not giving up.
“Start an army that comes to your Capitol and kick your legislators right in the posterior,” Lunsford said.
The District Attorneys Council and Colorado Coalition against Sexual Assault took no position on the bill. However the Coalition against Sexual Assault released a statement saying that under Colorado’s Lifetime Supervision Act for Sex Offenders, there are already sufficient safeguards in place for those offenses.
Forty-five other states have passed Jessica’s Law.