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Governor Blunt Renews Call for Death Penalty for Child Rapists

Governor Blunt toured the state Monday renewing his call to have the death penalty available as an option for prosecutors in child rape cases. KSMU's Michele Skalicky has more.

On the steps of the Greene County Courthouse, Blunt pointed to the recent incident in a north Springfield home where a 7-year-old girl was raped and left in a burning home. He says prosecutors need to be able to seek the death penalty in those types of cases.

"Those evil predators who rob our children of their youth and innocence deserve the most serious punishment that we can possibly deliver both as a matter of justice and a matter of deterrence."

In January, Blunt asked the General Assembly to pass legislation that would give Missouri prosecutors the ability to use the death penalty against child predators.

Republican Jack Goodman sponsored legislation in the MO Senate that would allow for capital punishment or life in prison without parole for those convicted of raping a child under the age of 12.

"This is not targeted at your routine child molester, although I'd like to see more done there, but this penalty is reserved for the most heinous and vile of offenses."

Currently, the maximum penalty for those convicted of raping a child is life in prison with the possibility of parole after 30 years has been served.

Goodman's bill has been heard but hasn't yet moved out of committee.

Rita Linhardt works on death penalty issues for the Missouri Catholic Conference. She hopes legislators will discuss the issue thoroughly before making a decision.

"We know that legislation is a very thoughtful, thorough process, and we respect the right of legislators not to rush to judgement on particular issues, so we just feel that this is an issue that needs a lot of thought and contemplation."

Last week, the US Supreme Court heard arguments in Kennedy vs. Louisiana. The court must decide the constitutionality of the death penalty as applied to sex offenders. Blunt says he and 28 MO legislators submitted an amicus brief, which argued in favor of the constitutionality of the death penalty in those cases.

"I would generally urge caution in a situation like this, but in this case it's different. The Supreme Court is using a test called evolving standards of decency in death penalty challenges. It's clear that the judges will be seeking clues to discover whether there is an emerging consensus in our country on the propriety of the death penalty for child rapists."

According to Blunt, passing a law allowing the death penalty to be applied in child rape cases would allow prosecutors to seek complete justice and would deter potential predators from committing these types of crimes.