COLUMBIA, S.C. – The state Senate on Tuesday endorsed making repeat child rapists eligible for the death penalty, setting aside arguments the move might be unconstitutional.
"What we've got to do today is vote our conviction," said Republican Sen. Larry Martin.
The proposal allows prosecutors to seek the death penalty for sex offenders who are convicted twice of raping a child younger than 11.
Currently in South Carolina, murder is the only crime eligible for the death penalty.
The proposal was approved as part of a larger bill that sets minimum sentences and lifetime electronic monitoring for some sex offenders. The bill requires a third reading before moving to the House.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a 1977 Georgia case involving an adult victim that sentencing someone to death for rape was unconstitutional.
A Louisiana law lets prosecutors seek the death penalty for rapists of children younger than 12, and the Louisiana Supreme Court found it constitutional because the U.S. Supreme Court ruling did not address the rape of a child.
The U.S. Supreme Court declined to review the statute.