COLUMBIA, S.C. – The South Carolina House on Wednesday passed a pair of bills that would allow prosecutors to seek the death penalty for some repeat child molesters.
Support for the package picked up steam after a man was charged with kidnapping two girls and raping them in a dungeon behind his home earlier this year.
The related measures could send to death row offenders convicted twice of raping a child younger than 11.
One bill was approved earlier by the Senate and now goes to the governor's office, but the second must go back to the Senate for reconsideration.
Opponents accused their fellow House members of casting politically favorable votes during an election year, and questioned whether capital punishment is constitutional for people who haven't killed anyone.
"I'm concerned about the emotional part of this whole issue," said state Rep. Ken Kennedy, a Democrat. "We're getting ready to do something in South Carolina that will cause us a lot of problems down the road."
In March, Kenneth Hinson of Hartsville was accused of kidnapping two 17-year-old girls and confining them in a closet-sized underground chamber. Authorities say the girls were sexually assaulted and left bound inside the room, concealed under a shed, but managed to free themselves and walk to safety.
Hinson, 47, was captured after a four-day manhunt in the woods near his home.
Under the existing law, if convicted Hinson faces a sentence of life without the possibility of parole. He was previously convicted in 1991 of raping an 11-year-old girl. No trial date has been set.
Louisiana, Florida and Montana allow the death penalty for sex crimes.