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By W. Gardner Selby December 10, 2012

New law enables prosecutors to pursue life without parole

In September 2010, Gov. Rick Perry laid out several proposals related to punishing sex offenders, coincidentally delivering a mini-bonanza for the Perry-O-Meter.

This year, we rated as Kept Perry's promise to create teams to arrest sex offenders who have violated parole. We rated as Broken his promise to monitor high-risk sex offenders after their release from prison. Such a proposal did not advance into law in the 2011 regular legislative session.

In 2010, Perry also promised to work with lawmakers to pass a measure permitting prosecutors to seek sentences of life without parole for certain repeat sex offenders.

By email, Perry spokeswoman Catherine Frazier singled out House Bill 3, which created the governor's requested new punishment of life without parole for certain sex offenders, she said.

According to a legislative summary, the proposal authored by Rep. Senfronia Thompson, D-Houston,  amended the Texas Penal Code to enhance the punishment for a defendant convicted of aggravated sexual assault to imprisonment for life without parole if, the summary says, it's shown that the defendant has previously been convicted of aggravated sexual assault or continuous sexual abuse of a young child or children or an offense committed under another state's laws containing substantially similar elements.

Perry signed the legislation into law on June 17, 2011.

We asked Rob Kepple, executive director of the Texas District and County Attorneys Association, if Perry's promise seems to be reflected in the new law. By phone, Kepple said prosecutors now have an avenue to charge suspects that, if convicted, would automatically be sentenced to life without parole.

"It's a promise fulfilled,” Kepple said.

We rate this as a promise Kept.

Our Sources

Email (excerpted), Catherine Frazier, then-deputy press secretary, Office of Gov. Rick Perry, July 7, 2011

Legislation and enrolled bill summary, House Bill 3, 2011 legislative session (accessed Dec. 6, 2012)

Telephone interview, Rob Kepple, executive director, Texas District and County Attorneys Association, Austin, Dec. 6, 2012

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