Emma's Law: Bill named after murdered toddler would change parole law on felonies against children

January 14, 2013 3:55:50 PM PST
A bill named after a four-year-old murdered in 2009 is in the works.

Representative Debbie Riddle's office says the bill is a direct response to what happened following little Emma Thompson's death.

Emma was beaten to death by her mother's boyfriend, Lucas Coe. Authorities found over 80 bruises on the girl's body along with a fractured skull.

Both Coe and Emma's mother -- Abigail Young -- were convicted. Coe was sentenced to life in prison.

Young is currently serving 20 years for her involvement. She has already been denied parole once, and her case is now up for review annually.

Emma's grandmother, Laurie Thompson, says because of state law they have to relive her murder every year when Young comes up for parole. She and a Houston official want to change that.

Representative Debbie Riddle's office says the bill is a direct response to what happened following little Emma's death. Thompson says passage of "Emma's Law" would mean her granddaughter didn't die in vain.

"To continuously have to deal with the details in a manner that causes them to have to revisit the crime, their loss," Thompson said. "It's just an unfair situation in terms of the justice system."

Young was found guilty of reckless injury to a child, a third-degree felony. Only first-degree felonies are on a list of offenses from which the Texas Parole Board is given latitude to set off parole hearing dates for up to five years.

"This just is ludicrous," said Andy Kahan, a city of Houston victims' rights advocate. "It lacks common sense, and the least we could do is try to get a bill passed that would give the parole board discretion; not a mandate, but just give them some more tools on cases of egregious offenders."

Thomspon is spearheading an effort to change the law. Emma's Law would make any felony against a child -- first-, second- or third-degree -- eligible for a five-year offset.

The Texas Civil Rights Project argues that such legislation would equate to a backdoor attempt to keep people in prison.

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