Wednesday, May 10, 2006


I understand the desire on the part of legislators to "humanize" bills by putting people's names on them, thus implying that passage of a particular bill would've prevented something terrible that happened to a particular person, or failure to pass the bill is somehow an endorsement of the original tragedy. It's also inspiring, as if you're doing something for the person.

So I read this feel-good article in the Daily Iowan:
A federal bill regarding consequences of sex offenders' actions may deter potential offenders from crimes such as those committed by Roger Bentley, who is seeking a new trial because of alleged juror misconduct.

. . .

Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, incorporated Jetseta's Bill into other legislation in April 2005. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., proposed the original legislation in an attempt to reform state sex-offender registries.

"It looks as though the cases of Jetseta Gage and the many other children who have been murdered by repeat sex offenders have opened the eyes of those who had held up this important legislation," Grassley said in a press statement. "Passing this legislation will give sex offenders tougher penalties for the crimes they commit, and it will allow us to monitor them more closely."

The U.S. Senate unanimously passed the bill on May 4, and the measure is now in conference committee.

Included in the bill are increased penalties for offenders when their crime involves a child and mandatory minimums, such as automatically punishing defendants with a 30-year to life sentence if they have caused the deaths of minors.

Teresa Gage, Jetseta Gage's grandmother, said she hoped the bill would work to prevent more tragedies like her granddaughter's.

While the Gage family has gone on record endorsing the death penalty in the past, Teresa Gage said she only found execution fitting if "it was proven 100 percent that [the defendant] did the crime to the child."

She said she thought if a bill such as this had been passed prior to her granddaughter's death, Jetseta might still be alive.

"I just hope [this bill] works," she said.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but Jetseta's murder was a state crime, not a federal one. Thus, most if not all of the bill is completely irrelevant to Jetseta's case. There are some bits about intimidation of state witnesses being the basis of a federal prosecution, but even if Jetseta's entire case were a federal crime, I doubt if this would've made any difference. If the thought of life in prison or the death penalty isn't enough deterrent to preclude Bentley from committing rape and murder against the child, this probably won't do the trick either.

I dislike it when politicians use highly publicized tragedies in a manner inconsistent with the legislation, particularly if they've convinced the family that this would've saved the child. Just had to point that out.

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