Thursday, March 5, 2009
In the past two decades, Congress has passed myriad laws purporting to protect the children, and proposing punishments for those who transgress against them. While the intent was good, perhaps the targeting has fallen away from the mark. We, as a people, and our children deserve better.
Perhaps the greatest measure of efficacy of new legislation should be, not "how harshly are people punished?", but "how often are people required to be punished?" Given the nature of the laws passed, I would actually question if the expressed intent hasn't had far more detriment to the children than the danger to which they were purportedly exposed.
Government legislation cannot reach those who are intending crime. The criminal intent negates all intention of government legislation. Would it not be better to see that the crime never occurs in the first place? Would it not be better if, by the nature of the act, the criminal act never occurs at all?
How would we create this outcome? Would it be less or more expensive than the continual assaults on the rights of all? Law cannot bind the lawbreaker, only the law-abiding, and thus it has minimal effects upon those who would break the law.
It would appear to my mind that the greatest efficacy would be in education. If one teaches the children to recognize their own rights and interests, empowers them to make decisions, and validates those decisions by allowing natural consequences and the learning from those consequences, then those children are far more likely to speak up about abuse.
Likewise, when a person has abused, a crime has been committed, and the damage is done. The crime must be paid for, and paid in full by the sentence imposed by the court. This is law. Altering that law after the fact weakens the underpinnings of the rule of law. Having multiple rules for different persons at different times also weakens that rule of law via vagueness and confusion. Is it not better to deal with those who can be treated, and thereby to determine those who cannot? Is it not better to work with those who have offended, and determine their nature, and see if they are willing to put forth the work required to allow them to truly rejoin society?
One could argue that even this is not effective, but it has not yet been tried. We have focused so much on new punishments and restrictions that we have forgotten the goal. The real goal is no more victims, no more crimes. It is not to punish those who are already punished, or to make laws that bind further those who abide by law. Law cannot bind those who make the choice to break the law.
Education, however, goes beyond even law. It instills in the person individual power, allows them to make informed decisions, allows them to investigate and think, and gives them enlightened self interest in the nature of law, and its following.
When we bind an offender from churches, are we not saying 'You do not deserve redemption'? When we, in sepulchural tones, decree that they do not deserve to be enfolded in the churches who help them to understand the ethics, to base them on something outside themselves, are we not declaring that they must always be criminals?
Was it not the very task of those Christian churches to reach out to the fallen, and guide them back to the light of Christ?
We ban them from living in many places, then complain when they are found living together in the very few places they are allowed. We post their working addresses up, then complaining that they are unemployed when... we will not hire them, and complain about businesses that do. We deny them locations for rent due to the fear of public perception, then complain when they are homeless because there is no place that they may legally live.
We track them as we would an animal, then complain when they disappear from that tracking. We force them to live as animals, then complain when one of them turns and bites.
If you deny them any meaningful reintegration into society... then what reason do they have to attempt to embrace the mores of society? We should be thankful, indeed, that many of them are law-abiding at this point, and that we do not have a far higher incidence of problems.
It would be far less dangerous for the children to help them find housing, work, and stability, and give them reasons to embrace society itself, and the reasons behind society. If we continue to kick them to the curb, and prevent their integration, we cannot complain that those we reject from society do not reintegrate.
We want to revile these human beings. We want to hate them. We forget that the goal is no new victims, anywhere. By abusing them, we become the victimizers, and by denying them meaningful rehabilitation, we are as much taking on the onus of any new crimes as they do. Do not our children deserve the best possible chance at life? Do they not deserve to live in a society that fixes the problems that lead to their victimization, rather than continuing the victimization so others can be harmed?
What we should be asking is what the 'sex offender problem' says about us.
This web page contains a ton of information on false and bogus studies, statistics, etc, and I highly recommend reading it.
View the article here
By Patricia McCormack
Suggested by neighborhood resource officer to protect children from registered sex offenders
In a 3-0 vote, the Greenwich Board of Selectmen last Thursday in Town Hall adopted a Child Safety Zone ordinance to protect boys and girls from registered sex offenders.
Before it becomes effective, the new law must be approved by the Representative Town Meeting (RTM).
The ordinance holds that each Child Safety Zone shall be identified as such by a sign conspicuously posted at the primary entrance of or within the Child Safety Zone.
The new ordinance also holds that the signs "shall provide a warning that the area is a Child Safety Zone and that the presence therein or thereon by a registered sex offender is a violation of this Ordinance and is punishable by a fine."
Abby R. Wadler, assistant town attorney, reported that the adoption of a Child Safety Zone ordinance was suggested by Neighborhood Resource Police Officer Keith E. Hirsch. It is supported by the Greenwich Police Department and the Greenwich Community and Police Partnership.
The ordinance creates Zones into which registered sex offenders may not enter. Such zones include parks and schools. The penalty for violators is a $100 fine.
Child Safety Zone ordinances have been adopted by only three of Connecticut's 169 towns and cities - Danbury, New Milford and Windsor Locks.
The ordinances adopted by the three towns are very similar to the one Wadler said she drafted for the Town of Greenwich.
In a draft of the ordinance mulled by Selectmen Peter Tesei, Lin Lavery and Peter Crumbine ahead of their votes, Wadler said the three towns adopted the ordinances "despite the fact that there is no similar enabling legislation from the state."
"That is, while Connecticut does require sex offenders to register -as all states do - and police must notify residents when a sex offender moves or returns to a neighborhood - there is no state law restricting the sex offenders from any area," Wadler said.
She also related that Constitutional arguments can be made on both sides of the issue.
"There are several civil liberties considerations," she advised the selectmen. "However, arguments can be made to counter them. The ACLU has already expressed interest in Greenwich's consideration of the ordinance."
ACLU stands for the American Civil Liberties Union. That entity advocates for rights guaranteed individuals under the Constitution of the United States.
Language in the draft of the resolution that the RTM is expected to accept in authorizing the Child Safety Zone ordinance adopted by the Board of Selectmen includes:
Several registered individuals - sex offenders - live in the Town of Greenwich. The Town of Greenwich's parks, playgrounds, educational, recreation and sports facilities are provided and furnished for the use of children and families, and the Town of Greenwich has a compelling interest in protecting children from the threat of sexual abuse and predation.
CHILD SAFETY ZONE: a public park, playground, beach, recreation and/or teen center sports facility and field, school or educational facility, including land on which facilities are located -including facilities' parking areas - which is used for educational, recreational, sports, youth activities or child-care purposes and which is owned or leased by any municipal agency including, without limitations, the Board of Education. "Child Safety Zone" does not include any public street or highway, nor does it include a sidewalk which is located outside the boundaries of the Child Safety Zone.
SEX OFFENDER: Any person who has been convicted or found guilty by reason of mental disease or defect, in this or any other state, jurisdiction or federal military court, of a "criminal offense against a victim who is a minor" or "a nonviolent sexual offense," a "sexually violent offense" or any felony that the court has found "was committed for a sexual purpose" as those terms are defined in Connecticut General Statues Sections 54-250.subsections 2, 5, 11 and 12, and who is required to register with the registry as a result of criminal activity pursuant to any provision of the Connecticut General Statutes, as amended.
The ordinance does not apply to:
- Any person whose name has been removed from the Connecticut Department of Public Safety's Sex Offender Registry or from the registry of any other state or in the federal or military system by act of a court or by expiration of the term such person is required to remain on such registry.
- Any person entering into a facility in a Child Safety Zone for the sole purpose of voting in any municipal, state or federal election or referendum, provided that the person leave the facility immediately after voting.
- To the extent that the conduct which is prohibited is in conflict with the terms of a judicially imposed sentence, order or probation or condition of parole which has been imposed upon an individual who is a sex offender.
PHOENIX - After more than two months' of requests, the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office released an incident report describing a jailhouse beating.
The inmate accused of the assault is Pete Van Winkle, the man who allegedly beat another inmate to death at the Fourth Avenue Jail in May.
_____, who is on death row, was in a small recreational yard on Jan. 8 when Van Winkle walked in and started assaulted him, all while under the watchful eye of the detention officer who was also on duty during the May attack.
- Sounds like this guard gets hit kicks by watching people fight and kill each other, and he should be fired, IMO!
When detention officers asked him why he attacked _____, Van Winkle only said, "He is a sex offender so I had to do it."
According to Jack MacIntyre, an attorney for the sheriff's office, the two men had no prior relationship or contact.
Both inmates were housed in what officials call the most secure part of the jail.
- Secure from whom? Doesn't sound very secure to me!
MacIntyre blamed the incident on burned-out light bulbs.
"We had…a work order in for some lighting, and the lights hadn't been replaced yet," he said.
The lighting in the recreational yard is controlled by a different entity than the sheriff's office, MacIntyre said.
Van Winkle, who allegedly has ties to the Aryan Brotherhood, was originally in jail for attempted murder; now he is also awaiting trial on murder charges for the slaying of inmate _____.
Surveillance video from the May beating shows Van Winkle attacking _____ for 15 minutes before officers arrived.
Though the beating was captured on tape, detention officer Kenneth Monahan was not monitoring that particular feed.
- Yeah, this is what they do, they know something is going to happen, and they turn their backs and pretend they knew nothing about it. Many times, they tell other inmates who is who, just to get stuff started. The prison system should be invstigated, IMO. This occurs all the time, just ask anybody whose been to jail or prison!
Monahan was the same officer who was monitoring the facility when _____ was attacked. He has since been transferred to another facility.
- This officer should be fired, he's not doing his job! Oh, so they transfer him to another facility, where he can do the same thing. You watch, some time in the near future, he will be in the news again!
Marc Mauer, executive director of The Sentencing Project, moderated a panel of experts for “Smart on Crime Policies: Increase Public Safety, Reduce Costs, and Improve Lives,” a Capitol Hill Crime Summit held on March 3rd. Representative Robert “Bobby” Scott (D-VA), Chairman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security, convened the standing room only briefing, which also included panels on Prevention and Intervention, and Reentry and Collateral Consequences.
Mauer opened the “Sentencing and Alternatives” discussion with a question for United States District Court Judge Nancy Gertner, asking about the effect of mandatory minimum sentences imposed by Congress, in taking discretion away from judges.
“I don't know if anyone can understand what it's like to sentence a defendant to a sentence to which you know to be manifestly unfair,” said Gertner. “We've stopped making meaningful distinctions between offenders.”
Panelist and Co-Chair of the Sentencing Committee of the American Bar Association's Criminal Justice Section and a member of the Constitution Project's Sentencing Committee, Jim Felman, stated that 94% of federal offenders are now sentenced to prison. Prior to the adoption of the federal sentencing guidelines, more than 40% were routinely sentenced to probation, a punishment which dramatically impacts the course of the rest of a person's life. “As a defense attorney, I can tell you that probation is punishment. It simply isn't necessary to lock everyone up.”
Mauer also asked panelists, including Kemba Smith, who was commuted from a crack cocaine sentence in 2000, why there is still a need to address mandatory minimum sentences, in light of the recent changes in sentencing guidelines.
“The changes have been helpful, but they are not enough,” said Judge Gertner. “It really is a marginal change. We've run this experiment through in incarceration, and it hasn't worked.”
Jim Felman responded: “We may not have known what it looked like when we did it, but we sure know what it looks like now.” He referred to a USSC report which stated that crack sentencing reform is the single most important thing that could be done to make the system more fair.
“I've watched this debate for a long time,” said Smith, who advocates for reform through her Kemba Smith Foundation. “I watched you all debate this from federal prison when I was incarcerated from 1994 to 2000. I really am hoping that something different will happen this time, and that it will start with the American people.”
Two additional panels on “Prevention and Intervention” and “Reentry and Collateral Consequences” were held in an effort to promote issues that deserve attention from policymakers.
Representative Patrick Kennedy (D-RI), who has worked to increase parity in mental health funding, referred to the number of people incarcerated with mental health conditions as “an outrage.”
“We have criminalized a public health emergency,” he said. “We have re-institutionalized people into the criminal justice system. In my state we spend more on adult incarceration than on adult education.”
Walter Beglau, District Attorney for Marion County, Oregon, referred to prevention and intervention strategies as “the most effective tools we have in crime reduction.”
Brian Bambarger, Coordinator of Policy Research and Outreach, Prevention Research Center for the Promotion of Human Development at Penn State University, discussed the importance of investing in prevention and intervention early in youth in an effort to protect the child, as well as to improve public safety.
“There is a direct and immediate cost to crime, especially if we wait until crime occurs,” said Bambarger, adding that society also has psychological, moral and financial obligations to address risk factors for crime early. “The same things that put children at risk for drug use are the same things that put children at risk for violence.”
Diane Williams, president of the Safer Foundation in Chicago, spoke on the reentry panel from her experience working with individuals working to turn their lives around.
“There are no second chances out there,” said Margy Love, former U.S. pardon attorney who works with the American Bar Associations Commission of Effective Criminal Sanctions. “The possibility of getting rid of collateral sanctions is almost non-existent in most jurisdictions. Is there a way that we will ever welcome people fully back to the community? I hope the answer is yes.”
Rep. Gregory White (D-NH) tearfully asks forgiveness for the degrading and sinful acts he is about to engage in.
He is accused, not convicted yet!
MOBILE - A rape suspect is in the hospital after police in Mobile say the alleged victim's relatives attacked him.
Police said 55-year-old _____ is accused of raping a 13-year-old girl after he broke into her house on Dauphin Island Parkway. Around 3 p.m. Tuesday, three men attacked _____ with a metal pipe.
On Wednesday, police announced the three men who beat _____ are relatives of the rape victim.
_____ is charged with rape and burglary. He will be taken to jail once he is released from USA Medical Center.
A grand jury will decide whether the men who attacked _____ will face any charges.
- I sure hope so!
DOUGLASVILLE - A Douglasville pastor and probation officer was arrested earlier this week.
Police arrested Joe Spann, a surveillance officer for Douglasville Probation. Spann is also the pastor of the Fully Rely On God Christian Ministry.
Police said he sexually assaulted a probationer and violated his oath of office.
Spann allegedly had sex with a person under his supervision as a surveillance officer.
We write today to provide you with an update on SB 157, the bill pending in the Georgia General Assembly that makes changes to Georgia’s sex offender law.
The bill (which is detailed below) was voted on by the Senate on Tuesday and passed 52-2. The bill now goes to the Georgia House of Representatives for their consideration. We want to make it clear that at this time, SB 157 has not been passed by the General Assembly nor has it become law. Only if it becomes law will these changes be implemented. We will be sure to keep you posted about any new developments on the progress of this bill. At this time, we do not know when we can expect to have further information about it. We will let you know as soon as we have an update.
SB 157 details:
Georgia Senate Bill 157 – Revisions to Sex Offender Laws
Georgia Senate Bill 157, if passed, will fix several of the many problems with Georgia laws for sex offenders. While not eliminating all problems, the bill addresses several areas including:
- New rules for appeals of decisions by the Sexual Offender Registration Board.
- Sentencing changes that explore the likelihood of re-offense in determining the level of risk classification.
- New and more-sensible limitations on sex offender registration requirements for certain offenses including kidnapping, misdemeanors, and proceedings in juvenile court.
- Changes in reporting requirements for release and renewal.
- Allowing sex offenders to seek an order releasing them from the registration requirements after completing their sentence (including parole and probation). The current law has a ten-year delay period after release before one may seek such an order.
All the best,
Sara, Sarah, James, Gerry and Mica
Southern Center for Human Rights
83 Poplar St.
Atlanta, GA 30303
(404) 688-1202 -phone
(404) 688-9440- fax
TRENTON - The man whose daughter's rape and murder led to sex offender community notification laws in every state is getting into politics.
Richard Kanka is one of eight candidates for three seats on the Hamilton Township school board.
Kanka says he's concerned about holding down high taxes in the Trenton suburb.
Kanka became an activist after his daughter, Megan, was killed in 1994 by a convicted pedophile who had moved into the neighborhood.
Kanka joined his wife is spearheading the push for Megan's Law, which requires community notification about sex offenders.
A federal law requiring notification was passed in 1996.
So this was a sex crime, why is he not in jail/prison and on the sex offender registry? More corrupt government BS for you!
By John Ellis - The Fresno Bee
She will get $210,000 in federal sex case over 2005 incident.
A federal lawsuit filed by a woman who performed a sex act on a uniformed Kingsburg officer was settled Wednesday with the city and the officer agreeing to pay a combined $210,000.
Under the agreement, which was approved by U.S. District Judge Oliver W. Wanger, the city of Kingsburg will pay $195,000 and Martin Solis, the former officer, will pay $15,000.
- Why is the state paying for this instead of Martin Solis? He should be the one paying the $250,000, all of it! The way this is, basically the tax payers are paying for this cops crime!
The settlement -- which stopped a jury trial scheduled to start Wednesday -- prohibits the 29-year-old Kingsburg woman from taking any further legal action on the matter. Neither the city nor Solis admits liability.
- Then why settle?
There is no indication that Solis was either prosecuted or disciplined by the Police Department after the incident, but he is no longer with the force.
Her initial lawsuit, which was filed in Fresno County Superior Court and then moved to federal court, alleged negligence, battery and sexual assault, among other allegations.
According to legal documents, the incident occurred June 5, 2005. At the time, the woman was 26 years old.
At the time, the lawsuit said, the woman was suffering from "severe depression to the point of suicidal tendencies and drug dependency." That June day, the woman's mother felt her daughter was so "unstable" that she should be temporarily committed to a hospital or mental institution.
Since such a commitment would not be voluntary, the lawsuit said, the mother sought the help of Kingsburg police, who dispatched Solis.
The mother hoped police could have her daughter committed under Section 5150 of California's Welfare and Institutions Code, which allows a person considered dangerous to herself or others to be kept in a mental health center for up to 72 hours.
After Solis arrived, the woman's parents left the house so he could interview her. Instead, the lawsuit claims, Solis "physically, mentally and sexually abused" her.
- If she was mentally incapable of talking with police, the parents should've stayed at the home.
A trial brief filed by Kingsburg indicated the city was ready to fight the case if the matter had gone to trial.
The brief said it is "undisputed" that Solis was dispatched to the woman's residence in a marked police car, and wearing his uniform and badge and carrying a weapon.
It further says that the woman initiated a hug and "mutual kiss" as Solis prepared to leave the residence after the interview. Following the kiss, the woman told Solis she wanted to show him some music she had downloaded on her computer, which was in her bedroom.
In the bedroom, the woman played some music for Solis and then orally copulated him. He then left the residence, according to the city's trial brief.
The city's trial brief, however, states that at no time did Solis indicate to the woman that she was going to be arrested or detained.
But the woman's lawsuit stated that Solis "knew that [her] unstable mental condition made her unable to make knowingly and intelligent decisions" and "made her particularly vulnerable to threatening, coercive conduct."
The suit said Solis, by implication, "threatened [the woman] with arrest if she did not cooperate with his 'investigation.' "
Under terms of the settlement, the money will be deposited in a trust account that will be managed by a trustee.
Peter Kapetan, who represented the woman, Alfred Gallegos, who represented Kingsburg, and Karen Lynch, who represented Solis, all declined to comment after the hourlong hearing.
Kingsburg City Manager Don Pauley did not return a call seeking comment.
The best advice I've seen in awhile. Read it, and learn! Remain silent, period!
By Chuck Peterson
It is early on a Sunday morning and I am in my office working. Sometimes this happens - I wake up and after fifteen or twenty minutes I know that I am not going back to sleep, so off I go to do a little work. Today I am listening to a tape recorded "interview" by a detective. The suspect is charged with a sex crime. The officer has been nice and comforting along the way - taking his time to eke information out of the defendant - and in the end the defendant has sealed his fate. He has told the officer that he fell in love with a minor, and that of course led to sex, and that will lead ultimately to a criminal case. Sex crimes are in the news here lately, as a prominent local business man is currently on trial for having a sex party with two minors. I am not going to talk about his case - I did that under oath as a witness last week - but the question of just when it is permitted to have sex with a minor is frequently one I deal with. The answer is - drum roll please - NEVER! That's right friends and neighbors, not ever.
The law in Idaho FORBIDS a minor from consenting to sexual contact. Simply stated: a minor (someone under eighteen) cannot legally consent to any sexual contact. Idaho Code § 18-1508 prohibits "lewd conduct" with a minor under 16 years of age. Penalty - LIFE. And truly they mean it. You may not go to prison for life (you might), but your life will forever be changed if convicted. In addition to prison, sex offender treatment, victim restitution and lawyers fees, there is also a requirement that you REGISTER as a sex offender under Idaho Code § 18-8301 et. seq. If the victim of the crime is 16 or 17, it is still a crime if you (as the defendant) are more than five (5) years older than the victim (Idaho Code § 18-1508A), and the maximum term of imprisonment is twenty-five (25) years.
So if you are being investigated for any sex crime remember that the investigators are playing for keeps. Here are my top three rules if you are under investigation for any crime:
1. Guilty or innocent you cannot talk your way out of the investigation, so shut up! Remember that little "you have the right to remain silent" talk BEFORE the nice officer gets you the coffee. Sure, you may be guilty and there may be a time to confess, but don't do so at the station to the officer who says he just wants to "get your side" so it can be included in his report to the prosecutor. WAIT. Breathe deeply and tell him you do not want to make a statement. There will be plenty of time to spill your guts later.
2. The prosecutor is not your friend. I know prosecutors, and like many of them. They are almost always believers in what they are doing, sometimes to a fault. The same is true of most defense lawyers. Heck, my daughter is a prosecutor. But as one of my clients says, prosecutors are just cops with nicer suits. They are there as the state's lawyer in a case in which your liberty is very much at risk. Do not expect a break from the prosecutors. They may decide that you are a nice person but that will not be enough to convince them to "overlook" your indiscretion and dismiss the case.
3. You know that money you saved for a rainy day? Get it out and buy the best lawyer you can afford because "it's pouring" outside. Again this week I had the call from a young woman who is looking for an appellate lawyer because her husband is on his way to the big house. Who was his lawyer, I ask. He had a public defender, she says. "We decided to wait and see how the trial went before spending our own money." Bad call. That public defender may have been great, but he also may have had 60 - 80 cases he was managing. Money buys time - which is why I am here at 6:00 am on a Sunday morning. Time is the difference between winning and losing, sometimes. Sometimes there is nothing the best lawyers can do to get you acquitted. For example - if you are guilty of doing whatever they are investigating. But your money can buy that lawyer's time and effort to review the documents, learn the case, get to know you and your life and convey "you" to a judge or jury. I may not be the right lawyer for your case, but somewhere there is a lawyer who will work for you - maybe just to lessen the time you face - hire the best lawyer you can afford.
There you have it - back in the saddle again and now it's time to get back to work. Next time - what do we do about the confession?
By Kallie Cart - Associated Press
CHARLESTON (AP) - Barbie could get an unwelcome present for her 50th birthday: outlawed in West Virginia.
A state lawmaker proposed a bill Tuesday to ban sales of the iconic Mattel doll and others like her.
The proposal from Democratic Delegate Jeff Eldridge says such toys influence girls to place too much importance on physical beauty, at the expense of their intellectual and emotional development.
A Mattel spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday. The Barbie doll officially turns 50 on March 9, and the toy maker has made big plans this year to mark the anniversary.
Barbie has had her foes over that half-century. Critics say the doll promotes materialism and an unnatural body image.
- And so does a vast majority of TV, but I do not see you going after them.
Here is the text of the bill as posted on the WV Legislature website:
H. B. 2918
(By Delegate Eldridge)
[Introduced March 3, 2009; referred to the Committee on the Judiciary.]
A BILL to amend the Code of West Virginia, 1931, as amended, by adding thereto a new article, designated §47-25-1, relating to banning the sale of "Barbie" dolls and other dolls that influence girls to be beautiful.
Be it enacted by the Legislature of West Virginia:
That the Code of West Virginia, 1931, as amended, be amended by adding thereto a new article, designated §47-25-1, to read as follows:
ARTICLE 25. BARBIE DOLLS.
§47-25-1. Unlawful sale of Barbie dolls.
It shall be unlawful in the state to sell "Barbie" dolls and other similar dolls that promote or influence girls to place an undue importance on physical beauty to the detriment of their intellectual and emotional development.
NOTE: The purpose of this bill is to ban the sale of Barbie dolls and other similar dolls.
If you'd like to contact Delegate Eldridge about his proposal, here is his contact information:
Jeff Eldridge (D - Lincoln)
Assistant Majority Whip
Room 212E, Building 1
State Capitol Complex
Charleston, WV 25305
Capitol Phone: (304) 340-3174
So how exactly is this law going to "protect" children? It's not. It's only going to punish people longer, after the fact! So once again, instead of working on PREVENTION, they instead pass another law that will do nothing to protect anyone. This man was on the registry, and was a known sex offender, and the family knew that. And like usual, they name a law after the child "BROOKE'S LAW" to appease the family, but does nothing to prevent crimes in the first place. Congress has just lost touch with reality, IMO. Studies show that child murders like this, are very rare, and also 90% or more of all sex crimes, are people who are NOT currently a sex offender, and 90% or more are family or close friends. But, they don't want you to know that, they are not concerned about the FACTS! As stated in the title of this article, the intent is to "protect children," yet this will not do that, it will only punish offenders, and that is not protecting them, now is it? Even the bill states it's about prevention, but I see nothing that will prevent this kind of tragedy from occurring again. Notice the highlighted words? This law will not do anything they said it will! It's just about punishment, and not prevention, yet they flip around words, to make it seem like it's something that it is not!
Vermont has a new law aimed at better protecting children from sex offenders. Governor Jim Douglas (Contact) signed the bill, Wednesday, which toughens penalties for sex offenders, eight months after the death of 12-year old Brooke Bennett.
"It's a shame that the tragedy had to bring all of this about," Cassandra Gagnon, Brooke's mother, said.
- And the law does nothing to prevent another tragedy from occurring in the future.
Gagnon and other family members watched as Douglas signed sex offender law S-13 (PDF).
In June 2008 her daughter was raped, strangled, and killed. Brooke's uncle, Michael Jacques is accused of the crime. By signing the law Wednesday, lawmakers took a step to help ensure a tragedy like that will not happen again.
- And this man was a KNOWN sex offender, who was registered, and the family knew he was a sex offender.
"S-13 creates two new crimes, one that protects a minor from sexual exploitation at the hands of the very adults entrusted with their welfare, and one that provides for a minimum 25-year sentence for the most egregious and heinous acts against a child," Douglas said.
- Studies show that 90% of sexual crimes occur by the victims own family or close friends, so how is this going to prevent another family member from being victimized?
Sex offenders now face a minimum mandatory 25 year prison sentence but that's not all. More information can be used at their sentencing. It will also help police when investigating.
- Yeah, after a crime has been committed. So how is that prevention?
"It allows us to take DNA samples from those who are arrested for felonies and will allow us to have a wider database to help us solve crimes," Thomas Tremblay, Vermont's Public Safety Commissioner, said.
- Again, after the fact!
Probation officers will have the responsibility to supervise the riskiest offenders. This law also has components for education and awareness to prevent sex crimes.
"Families, communities and educators the first line of prevention and protection will have more and better information and training to identify the signs and signals of a sexually abused child," Douglas said.
Gagnon said it's been a long process, but her daughter Brooke deserves this law.
"It's been a roller coaster ride," Gagnon said.
Although the Bennett tragedy started the push for this law, Jacques won't be tried under the new system. He's being tried in federal court, and if convicted, he could face the death penalty.
By JoAnn Wypijewski
Sex panics make for bad law. It could be said that they make for bad science, too, except that what has driven some of the most notorious legal cases to emerge from such panics has been more a masquerade of science, a belief tricked out in the language of medicine and social science to distract from the mumbo jumbo at its core. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court is set to be the latest arena to test that belief, taking up the admissibility of "dissociative amnesia," or "repressed memory," in a case that some powerful interests no doubt hoped was as settled as the grave.
The petitioner is Paul Shanley, a once famous "street priest" who became infamous in the sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church, was tried in 2005, convicted and sentenced to twelve to fifteen years in prison. Because the media, particularly the Boston Globe, were central to the allegations and the frenzy that provided the context, it has always been difficult to see the case plainly. But because justice, as opposed to its many stand-ins, is blind, imagine yourself or one you love as the defendant at the bar.
In October 2004 Dr. Daniel Brown, a Boston psychologist, took the witness stand in a pretrial hearing at Middlesex Superior Court and offered what would become the state's only foundation for its prosecution. There was no evidence in the case, just a claim that depended entirely on faith. Dr. Brown was in the courtroom to give it the imprimatur of science.
The accuser asserted that from the age of 6, in 1983, he had been raped and otherwise indecently assaulted by the defendant for three years in a busy church on Sunday mornings. Each assault, it was alleged, instantly erased his memory of what had just happened, so that the boy re-approached the defendant in a state of innocent unknowing, to be assaulted again, to forget everything again and again, and then move on in life without the slightest inkling of the experience until twenty years later, when it all came back to him.
Dr. Brown had appeared as a certified expert in courtrooms for years, stating that the mind's capacity for such "massive repression" was generally accepted as demonstrable fact in the psychological professions. That was always false. By 2004, however, as compellingly detailed in documents now before the Supreme Judicial Court, the literature in major scientific publications questioning the validity of repressed memory was weighty. Many of the therapists whose work Brown recommended had been disgraced, stripped of their licenses and revealed as dangerous frauds in successful malpractice suits.
Brown's own testimony had been rejected as unreliable by courts in New Hampshire and Rhode Island. Nevertheless, he was the expert favored by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and defense counsel offered not a single study or witness to rebut. Almost fifty years of research on memory and trauma, involving 120 studies and more than 14,000 people with documented experiences of rape, sexual abuse, torture, death camps, war or other horrors, reveals no evidence of repressed memory--that is, an inability to remember that cannot be explained by ordinary forgetting, infantile amnesia, intoxication or brain injury. Ignorant of that record, Judge Stephen Neel ruled that "the theory of repressed memory is generally accepted by the relevant scientific community." Thus, it was deemed admissible to buttress the criminal allegations.
When prosecutors first brought those, in 2002, there were four complainants, all friends or acquaintances, who reported identical experiences of sexual abuse, immediate memory loss and instantaneous remembering within a few days of one another. This quadruple "recovery" of memory began when one of them read an article in the Globe.
Although, as initially charged, the defendant was a man who had had "unnatural sexual intercourse" with four small children in the same period, at the same time on Sundays, in the same circumstances for years, there was never any physical evidence. No blood, no rips, no teary eyes or flushed faces or even dishevelment among the boys. None of the many people who were in the church every week when these crimes were supposedly happening, including the mother of one of the boys, ever noticed a thing. No one saw any of the boys alone with the defendant. No one corroborated essential details of their stories; in fact, many witnesses, including the accuser's mother-in-law, who was also on the scene every week, contradicted them.
Ultimately the DA dropped three men from the case, their shaky claims further burdened by mental illness, gambling, drug use, prison time and prior statements of being raped by family members. The last man standing had been in the Air Force and was a newly married fireman at the time of trial. Under oath he re-remembered some of his "memories" differently. The prosecution's expert witness, a confederate of Dr. Brown called Dr. James Chu, testified that this was perfectly consistent with dissociative amnesia. Every contradiction in the accuser's story, like every problem in his past, was only further proof of sexual abuse and of his sincerity.
Dr. Chu's testimony revealed the leap of faith at the heart of repressed memory belief. "There are patients who report no amnesia," he said, "and I don't know whether they in fact have no amnesia or that they just haven't yet remembered something that they forgot." Defense counsel floundered in the face of this purported scientific expertise. Dr. Chu admitted that the concept of the brain erasing all knowledge of a traumatic event until some mysterious mechanism unlocks the deep freeze of memory "doesn't make a lot of intuitive sense." He was relying on the stories patients told him, the symptoms from which a therapist can "construct meaning," as Dr. Brown had put it, and the studies based on people's self-reporting, without controls, methodological standards, error rates; in other words, without scientific validity.
In the absence of effective cross-examination or an informed defense, though, Dr. Chu's testimony conferred the aura of a scientific benediction. Use your "common sense," the prosecutor told the jury; believe the expert, believe the victim. She hadn't proved a thing, but the jury believed them.
Almost no one in the press questioned the "science." Scandal had been so profitable. After Roderick MacLeish Jr., a personal injury lawyer who brought a civil case on behalf of the four accusers, held a dramatic PowerPoint press conference in 2002, the Globe pronounced the priest "depraved" and went on to collect its Pulitzer for retailing MacLeish's most inflammatory claims. The immense documentary record on Shanley never supported them, so the Globe's reporters (and others from The Advocate to the New York Times to Vanity Fair) either never analyzed the documents independently or misrepresented them. Nor did they submit their interviews to the most basic checks of rational skepticism.
Shanley had had sex. He'd had sex with hustlers and teenagers and other men. And he, a priest, had lied about it. That anyone else might be lying, or confused, or seeking attention, or wanting money, or needing an explanation for the mess of a life only muddied up a good gothic tale. When the church defrocked Shanley and, against its attorneys' advice, settled the civil case, paying the accuser, Paul Busa, $500,000 and paying the troubled friend whose claims had set off the chain reaction of recovered memories, Gregory Ford, $1.4 million, it handed down one more pretrial guilty verdict. "Even if Shanley didn't rape those kids," went the common line, "he did something." Nobody knew, amid all the monster-making, that the DA had offered Shanley a deal: plead guilty and avoid prison. He refused.
When the Supreme Judicial Court hears arguments in May, it will consider the issues that, without the impedimenta of panic and prejudice, always made this a case about due process and equal treatment under the law. Shanley's new lawyer, Robert Shaw Jr., is not asking the court to divine Busa's veracity or even to determine that the hypothesis of repressed memory is, finally, true or false. That, he asserts, is the function of scientific research. To date, the research shows that the hypothesis is unproven. And so long as it is unproven, it is inadmissible in court. Shaw argues that Shanley had ineffective counsel on this and other matters, and he is seeking a new trial.
This will be the first time a Massachusetts court fully considers the scientific, evidentiary basis for repressed memory. The Commonwealth is behind the curve. Since 1998 state courts have been dismissing repressed memory as junk science, and prosecutions based on it have become rare. In 2007 an Indiana court rejected Dr. Brown's testimony as misleading, and a federal judge threw out a $1.75 million verdict in a case that hinged on Brown's expertise. In a 2006 amicus brief, dozens of pre-eminent social science researchers stated, "Decades of research and scientific debate have clarified over and over again that the notion of traumatic events being somehow 'repressed' and later accurately recovered is one of the most pernicious bits of folklore ever to infect psychology and psychiatry." Which is why Massachusetts matters beyond the fate of one man. People who may not believe in God or aliens believe in repressed memory, with no more justification and maybe less. The source of that belief is by now a tangled web, but one of its strands leads back decades to liberals and do-gooders, feminists and therapists in Massachusetts. Their ideas ruined hundreds of lives, and their acolytes, who cheered Shanley's conviction and were rewarded for abetting it, ought to be disabused of the pretension that they served something other than faith-based justice.