Scott Henson at Grits for Breakfast offers a provocative post connecting a recent exoneration in a death penalty case with sex offender registries:
Sen. Shapiro sounds a little defensive, and perhaps she should. She's correct that Blair's exoneration indeed does not "diminish the fact that Ashley Estell was molested and murdered." What it does do, however, is demonstrate how easily the harsh laws Sen. Shapiro spearheaded can be applied to the wrong person. (The man DNA identified as Estell's actual killer died ten years ago without being prosecuted for the crime.)
Three factors contributed to Michael Blair's wrongful conviction: Inaccurate eyewitness testimony, shoddy forensic science, and assumptions of guilt by police based on Blair's past conviction for sex crimes. The sex offender laws Shapiro spearheaded institutionalized such assumptions - encouraging instead of preventing them - making it more likely in such cases the wrong person gets convicted and the guilty man goes free.
Frankly, IMO the whole sex offender registry idea was always more a public relations stunt than a public safety strategy. The registries includes too many petty offenders, they tend to be filled with errors and perhaps most importantly from a public safety perspective, research shows that "community notification deters first-time sex offenses, but increases recidivism by registered offenders." (emphasis added)
I think this is an interesting and essentially correct observation. This is not to say that the existence of registries made it more likely that someone would be falsely convicted. However, the assumption of the registry that all sex offenders are equally dangerous for life is also embodied in short-cut police work that sometimes causes tunnel-vision focus on particular suspects with prior convictions.