September 22, 2014

Senator seeks death penalty for kidnap, rape and murder of children

The parents of Iowa children who’ve been kidnapped and murdered gathered at a statehouse news conference today as a show of support for a state senator who’s pushing legislation that would reinstate a very limited form of the death penalty in Iowa. State Senator Kent Sorenson, a Republican from Milo, calls it “capital justice” — aimed solely at those who prey on children.

“That focuses on anyone that commits two ‘Class A’ felonies in conjunction with each other that results in murder,” Sorenson said, “whether it’s kidnap and murder or rape and murder of a child.”

Sorenson also proposes mandatory “chemical castration” for men who commit serious sex crimes against children.

“It been in law in Iowa since 2003 and unfortunately our judicial system has (chosen) not to enact it,” Sorenson said. “Judges now have the opportunity to require anyone that commits a crime of sexual assault on a minor under the age of 12, sentence them to chemical castration upon release. What my bill does is it takes it from ‘they may issue it’ to ‘they shall issue it’ on anyone that commits a serious sexual offense on a minor under the age of 12.”

Electronic monitoring of paroled sex offenders is another of Sorenson’s goals. Sorenson is calling for public hearings at the statehouse to discuss these ideas.

“This is something that we need to enact to protect the children of this state. Obviously what we’re doing is not working both with preventing and deterring criminals and tracking them,” Sorenson said. “Something needs to change.”

Senator Rob Hogg, the chairman of the Senate committee that would review Sorenson’s legislation, said he won’t bring the death penalty up for debate.

“Iowa hasn’t had the death penalty for over 40 years. The last time it was voted on in the Iowa Senate it had strong, bipartisan opposition,” Hogg told Radio Iowa Thursday. “There are many legislators who think it is morally to have the death penalty and I think that’s legislators of both parties, so we’re not going to be doing it.”

Drew Collins, the father of a girl who went missing this summer in Evansdale and was found murdered in December, today said it’s unfair for Hogg to hold the proposal “hostage.”

“As a parent of a murdered child it makes me sick that it’s not even open to debate,” Collins said. “…It shouldn’t be up to one person in the whole group to decide we’re not going to debate this…It victimizes us one more time.”

Collins was among the parents of murdered children who gathered in the statehouse today for a news conference on the subject.

“The fact that they’re saying it’s not open to debate, that’s just insane,” Collins said. “I mean, our children are being taken off the streets and murdered, but it’s not open to debate to try to change what’s going on?”

Donnisha Hill of Waterloo was kidnapped and murdered in 2006. Her father, Adonnis Hill, spoke at today’s news conference, too.

“It just hurts, I mean it’s a hurt that will not go away and I think I’m here to just kind of ease the pain by paying it forward, but enough is enough and if you’re a parent, a grandparent, if you care you will get this bill passed because we’ve got to get something done right now,” he said. “Swift justice.”

Twenty-two-year-old Lindsay Nichols was murdered in Jesup last year by an ex-boyfriend. Her father, Tom Nichols — a Black Hawk County deputy sheriff, attended the news conference to signal his support for the death penalty.

“To me personally and I’m not speaking for all law enforcement in the state of Iowa, I’m not speaking for law enforcement with the law enforcement agency that I’m affiliated with that I’m associated with — this is my opinion that there has to be justice in the long run,” Nichols said. “I think this is where we’ve needed to be for a long time.”

The proposals Senator Sorenson outlined today will be introduced as senate bills next week.