By Marc Kovac
Repeat sexual offenders who rape children could face the death penalty, under a bill the Ohio House is considering.
Rep. John Becker, a Republican from the Cincinnati area, said his House Bill 244 would give prosecutors another option when negotiating plea agreements and could help to persuade the U.S. Supreme Court to allow capital punishment for heinous crimes against children.
“In light of the Ariel Castro kidnapping case of three young women in Cleveland, I wanted to give prosecutors the option to pursue the death penalty for repeat sexual offenders,” Becker told the House’s judiciary committee this week.
“... I anticipate that the death penalty would be pursued in only the most heinous crimes.”
HB 244 would allow the death penalty for repeat sexual offenders convicted of aggravated rape, aggravated sexual battery and aggravated unlawful sexual conduct with a minor.
Becker said the bill is modeled after laws in a half- dozen states. And 15 states allow the death penalty for crimes other than murder, such as kidnapping, aircraft hijacking and espionage.
Becker acknowledged a split U.S. Supreme Court decision from 2008 in which justices ruled that a Louisiana law allowing the death penalty for child rape was unconstitutional. But he said Ohio’s passage of comparable legislation could sway the high court to conclude there was a “national consensus” in favor of executions in such cases.
“Regardless, Ohio has the opportunity to lead on this issue and prompt other states to follow,” he said.