More death penalty sentences in home invasion cases?

COLUMBIA, SC (WMBF)  State Lawmakers are considering a bill that would add new crimes to the list of offenses eligible for the death penalty.

The bill would make it easier for convicted home invaders responsible for a murder to receive the death penalty, and also potentially increase the length of home invasion crime penalties.

Horry County Solicitor Greg Hembree said the bill would only have a minimal impact on statutes already in place regarding capitol punishment for home invasion crimes, but the small impact could provide prosecutors another tool to pursue sentences.

"[It] closes that loophole and that's got some value," Hembree explained.  "Even though [the situation] might not come up that much, [for example, if] we have ten home invasions and it doesn't count in nine of them, in the tenth one it might, and that's worthwhile."

Surfside Beach Police Chief Mike Frederick said the actual impact on home invasion crimes will likely be minimal, but added he could not think of a reason any law enforcement agency would object to the Home Invasion protection Act.

"Most criminologists would agree it's now going to have a wide ranging, easily discernable impact on the home invasion scene," Frederick stressed.  "But if it deters one person, that's great."

Residents of the Woodlyn Meadow Neighborhood in Little River, where a violent armed home invasion occurred days before Christmas in 2011, say they worry about home invasions daily.

"I feel like the legislature is way behind, this should have been done years ago," said a resident of Woodlyn Meadow who chose to identify himself only as C.W. "They need to set some examples, and I think it would be a deterrent to crime."

Hembree says criminals convicted of burglary, armed robbery or kidnapping charges combined with a murder are already eligible for death sentence.

Several versions of the bill, including one that deals with punishment based on the severity of the incident, are currently being considered by legislative committees.

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