Sunday, January 5, 2014
By Karen Franklin, Ph.D.
Use of a controversial psychopathy test is skyrocketing in court, even as mounting evidence suggests that the prejudicial instrument is highly inaccurate in adversarial settings.
The latest study, published by six respected researchers in the influential journal Law and Human Behavior, explored the accuracy of the Psychopathy Checklist, or PCL-R, in Sexually Violent Predator cases around the United States.
The findings of poor reliability echo those of other recent studies in the United States, Canada and Europe, potentially heralding more admissibility challenges in court.
Although the PCL-R is used in capital cases, parole hearings and juvenile sentencing, by far its most widespread forensic use in the United States is in Sexually Violent Predator (SVP) cases, where it is primarily invoked by prosecution experts to argue that a person is at high risk for re-offense. Building on previous research, David DeMatteo of Drexel University and colleagues surveyed U.S. case law from 2005-2011 and located 214 cases from 19 states -- with California, Texas and Minnesota accounting for more than half of the total -- that documented use of the PCL-R in such proceedings.
To determine the reliability of the instrument, the researchers examined a subset of 29 cases in which the scores of multiple evaluators were reported. On average, scores reported by prosecution experts were about five points higher than those reported by defense-retained experts. This is a large and statistically significant difference that cannot be explained by chance.
Prosecution experts were far more likely to give scores of 30 or above, the cutoff for presumed psychopathy. Prosecution experts reported scores of 30 or above in almost half of the cases, whereas defense witnesses reported scores that high in less than 10 percent.
We can all become angry and frustrated with life. Some of us have been known to express that frustration in ways that later, upon reflection, seem foolish or even tragically self-destructive. John Walsh, with the help of a public that cannot have rational conversation about how to intelligently manage sexual criminality, has succeeded in turning his son’s memory into a curse on a nation.
Adam Walsh was abducted from a Sears department store in Hollywood, Florida, on July 27, 1981, and was later found to have been murdered and decapitated. Walsh’s father, John Walsh, became an advocate for victims of violent crimes and the host of the television program America’s Most Wanted. Convicted serial killer Ottis Toole eventually confessed to the boy’s murder but was never tried for the crime due to loss of evidence. [Toole] claimed [his motive was] that he wanted to make Walsh his adopted son… The police investigation of Walsh’s abduction was extremely inept, and they lost the bloodstained carpet from Toole’s Cadillac, the machete used to decapitate Walsh, and eventually, the car itself.
The Adam Walsh Child Act was signed into law by U.S. President George W. Bush (Video) on July 27, 2006. The Walsh Act organizes sex offenders into three tiers and mandates that Tier 3 offenders (the most serious tier) update their whereabouts every three months with lifetime registration requirements. Tier 2 offenders must update their whereabouts every six months with 25 years of registration, and Tier 1 offenders must update their whereabouts every year with 15 years of registration. Failure to register and update information is a felony under the law.
The government has to figure out a way to pay their debt, so they stoop for forcing people to pay more fees / extortion / fines. Like we've said before, eventually everybody will be on an online registry of some sort. Maybe they will have one about who is White, Black, Mexican, etc, or Christian, Jew, Muslim, etc? And by creating new registries for everything instead of just one with everybody and that is searchable by keywords, they are wasting tons of money in re-inventing the wheel and making new registries. Why not have one for all sinners? Eventually you will not be able to buy, sell or trade without being in Big Brother's database.
By Emily Miller
For the first time in the United States, a citizen who has legally registered a gun will have to submit to a renewal process. The consequences of not knowing about this new law or missing the specific 60-day window are dire.
Starting on Jan. 2, every single D.C. resident who has registered a firearm since 1976 must go to police headquarters to pay a $48 fee and be photographed and fingerprinted. The Metropolitan Police Department estimates there are at least 30,000 registered gun owners.
If the registrant does not go to the police station within three months after a set time frame, the registration is revoked. That citizen is then in possession of an unregistered firearm, which is a felony that carries a maximum penalty of a $1,000 fine and a year in jail. The gun itself is put into a category of weapons that can never be registered, just as though it were a machine gun or a sawed- off shotgun.
The city has not made clear how it will enforce the law, but the police are in possession of all registrants' home addresses so confiscation and arrests would be simple.
The police are notifying registrants by mail that they have to come to the station on the set schedule. Also, the department took out a $550 advertisement in The Washington Times to run on Monday. The required public notice is not being printed in any other newspaper or media outlet.
The three-year expiration date is supposed to uncover if a gun owner does something that makes him suddenly a danger to society, such as committing a felony, becoming a drug addict or being involuntarily committed to a mental hospital.
I recently asked D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, who wrote these laws in 2009, why he couldn't just run all our names through the FBI's National Instant Background Checks System (NICS), which uses information including name, Social Security number, birth date and physical characteristics to determine if the applicant is legally prohibited from owning a gun. NICS is used nationally for gun sales and transfers from licensed dealer and applications for a concealed-carry permit. (The records are not kept in order to prevent a national gun registry.)
"I don't want name-based," Mr. Mendelson replied. "I can go in and pretend I'm Emily Miller if I have your name and Social Security number. So name-based is not as good for identification as fingerprints. And NICS doesn't have all the information."
These points are disputed in a December court filing in the federal court case known as Heller II, which is challenging D.C.'s registration laws, including the reregistration section. The plaintiffs point out that NICS covers all state and local databases. In a deposition, the officer in charge of the registration section for 20 years admitted that the unit has not had a problem with fake IDs. Furthermore, criminals don't go to the police station before buying their guns; only the law abiding would do that.
The city is making a tidy profit from forcing everyone to reregister. The fees, set in 2003, go to a general fund. It costs $13 for each gun registered. For renewals, the cost is the same, but it is per person, not per firearm. In addition, gun owners pay $35 for electronic fingerprinting for an FBI background check.
While there is no charge for a NICS check, the FBI's fingerprint background check for a civilian is $18. This means D.C. is essentially charging a total $30 gun tax. Multiply that times the minimum 30,000 registrants and the city is raking in about a cool $1 million from gun owners. No other right in the Constitution requires a payment.
"Requiring registration in the first place to exercise a constitutional right is harassment enough," Stephen Halbrook, the lead attorney of Heller II, told me. "Canceling the registration every three years and charging the equivalent of a poll tax to reregister, and requiring citizens to be fingerprinted yet again, adds insult to injury. Criminals in the sex-offender registration system aren't even subjected to that."
The schedule for going to police headquarters is somewhat confusing. Registrants are given two-month windows that are loosely aligned to their birth dates. However, Kelly O'Meara, one of Metropolitan Police Department Chief Cathy L. Lanier's top deputies, said they decided to spread the renewals over a two-year period to avoid long waits.
As a result, the months don't match up exactly. For example, if you are born between Feb. 16 and March 31, your renewal period is April 1 to June 30 this year. Firearms owners are not allowed to go to the Firearms Registration Section at any other time. I asked Ms. Meara what happens if a gun owner comes in early. "We probably would not turn them away," she said. "We just won't encourage it by saying we are open to it."
The District started registering long guns (rifles and shotguns) in 1976 after issuing a complete ban on handguns. In 2008, the Supreme Court overturned the handgun ban in the landmark Heller decision. Afterwards, the D.C. Council passed the most restrictive gun-control laws in the nation in an attempt to dissuade people from exercising their newly recovered right.
The purported purpose of reregistration is to keep firearms out of the hands of dangerous people. However, the District's own witnesses in the Heller II depositions "cite no studies showing that periodic registration renewal or reporting requirements reduce crime or protect police officers."
While the police are forced to put tens of thousands of innocent people through a reregistration process, the actual criminals are having a field day in D.C. Homicides were up 15 percent in 2013 over 2012. Robberies with a gun rose 4 percent. The police should be going after the bad guys and not wasting time on those of us who are exercising our Second Amendment rights and abiding by the law.
LOUISVILLE - _____ graduated in the top third of his law school class at the University of Kentucky, but the state Supreme Court blocked him from taking the bar exam because he is a registered sex offender.
In the first case of its kind in Kentucky, the court rejected _____'s bid and a move by the state Office of Bar Admissions to create and endorse a blanket rule that would have kept all registered sex offenders from gaining access to the bar.
"Rather, we believe the better course would be to allow any applicant for bar admission who is on the sex offender registry the opportunity to make his or her case on an individualized basis," Chief Justice John D. Minton wrote in the Dec. 19 opinion on _____'s case and the proposed rule.
_____, who was convicted of a charge related to child pornography in 2007, has until Jan. 13 to ask the court to reconsider its decision. In an email, _____ referred Associated Press questions to his attorney, who said the reconsideration request will be filed.
Nationally, cases of felons seeking admission or re-admission to the bar are common. But situations of registered sex offenders attempting to do so appear to be rare. Beyond a recent rejection in Ohio and an ongoing case in Virginia, legal experts and those who work to rehabilitate sex offenders couldn't recall a similar situation arising in recent years.
But Shelley Stow of Reform Sex Offender Laws — a Massachusetts-based organization that seeks to ease restrictions on offenders and promote rehabilitation — said she wouldn't be surprised to see more cases out there. "It is so difficult for registrants to even get jobs and support themselves and function day to day, let alone pursue a law career," she said.
The Kentucky case brings up the question of how to treat someone who has admitted to criminal activity, wants to rehabilitate himself and serve others, but is still monitored by law enforcement, said _____'s attorney, Scott White, of Lexington.
"It's a highly stigmatized thing," White said.
_____ pleaded guilty to a charge of possession of matter portraying a sexual performance by a child in March 2007. He received a five-year prison sentence, which was suspended, and was required to register as a sex offender for 20 years — until 2027.
After disclosing the conviction and sex offender status on his applications, Chase Law School at Northern Kentucky University and Brandeis Law School at the University of Louisville both rejected him in 2008. But the University of Kentucky College of Law accepted him in 2008 and he graduated in 2011.
_____ later competed on the National Trial Team and National Moot Court Team, and he had a piece published in the Berkeley La Raza Law Journal through the University of California law school.
Since graduating in 2011, _____ has held a non-lawyer position for Baldani, Rowland and Richardson. The Lexington firm has filed letters in support of _____ taking the bar exam, White said. But _____ still has not been cleared by the Kentucky Office of Bar Admissions to take the exam that would allow him to practice law.
White called _____ "a classic sex addict."
"The classic example is somebody who just downloads buckets of pornography," White said. "In that download, there just happened to be child pornography."
In this case, _____ has gone through Sex Addicts Anonymous, despite a few admitted relapses with adult, but not child, pornography, White said.
White also said his client used law school as a redemptive and rehabilitative effort while owning up to his criminal conduct.
"He just hasn't let it define him," White said.
Elizabeth Feamster, director and general counsel for the Kentucky Office of Bar Admissions, did not return phone and email messages seeking comment from AP. But in court filings, Feamster cited the seriousness of the charge as well as _____'s acknowledgement of sexual addiction and "destructive and harmful behaviors when it comes to sex and sexuality." Also, law school students are warned early in their legal education that behavioral issues could exclude them from being admitted to the bar, Feamster wrote.
_____ "was aware that he might be allowed into this profession," Feamster wrote.
For the justices, the nature of the crime defines someone lacking in the "requisite character and fitness" to be admitted to the bar.
"Indeed, our certification could significantly mislead the public into believing that we vouch for (_____'s) good character," Minton wrote. "Consequently, a client's subsequent discovery of the registry listing could then justifiably lead him to question the value of this court's certification of the good character of those who are permitted to take the bar examination."
By Melissa Daniels
DNA from criminal suspects arrested in Pennsylvania could be put into a state computer database if law enforcement interests trump privacy concerns during the upcoming legislative discussion.
The state House of Representatives is considering Senate Bill 150, which would require police to collect a DNA sample from suspects arrested for any felony and for misdemeanors requiring registration as a sex offender. The legislation has touched off a debate that pits individual privacy concerns against a desire among law enforcement officials to track potential offenders.
Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, R-Delaware, said his proposal would put Pennsylvania on par with more than two dozen states that have expanded their forensic DNA databases in hope of solving more crimes.
“It's not a question of if, it's a question of when,” he said.
Pennsylvania collects DNA from individuals convicted of felonies.
Andy Hoover, legislative director for the ACLU of Pennsylvania, said Pennsylvania's proposed expansion might not withstand legal scrutiny.
“It's questionable whether or not something this broad would be constitutional,” he said.
Patrick Livingston, a Pittsburgh-area criminal defense attorney with about 30 years of experience, said DNA collected upon arrest could be “jumping the gun.” No burden of proof would be required before the DNA was taken, and it could be used in court as evidence in a way that otherwise may require a warrant, he said.
“It raises, in my mind, a lot of administrative headaches in the garden variety case that gets reduced or dismissed,” he said.
The Supreme Court upheld a Maryland law in June allowing pre-conviction DNA collection with a 5-4 decision.
Hoover said the Pennsylvania proposal would collect DNA for more crimes than Maryland's statute.
The Pennsylvania Senate passed the bill, 38-9, two weeks after the high court's decision. The House Judiciary Committee conducted hearings and advanced the bill to the full House.
“It can really have an opportunity to prevent some really horrific, violent crimes throughout this Commonwealth, and those tools are there, and they've been deemed to be constitutional,” Bruce Beemer, a chief deputy from the attorney general's office, told the committee.
Law enforcement agencies and victim rights groups support the bill, including the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape.
Pileggi said he wants to see the legislation on Gov. Tom Corbett's desk before the end of the fiscal year in June. But Stephen Miskin, spokesman for House Republicans, said there's no plan to put the bill up for a vote because many members oppose it on privacy concerns.
Similar legislation failed to pass the House in 2012.
Rep. Tim Krieger, R-Greensburg, was one of two votes in committee against the bill. He said he'd prefer to see the state expand DNA collection to people convicted of theft.
“I'm open to look into something like that, as long as we can address both the cost issue and constitutional privacy, freedom, liberty issues,” he said.
DNA samples are processed at the Pennsylvania State Police lab in Greensburg, which also processes criminal evidence from across the state.
Beth Ann Marne, director of the forensic DNA division, said the lab in 2013 linked more than 500 DNA samples to convicted offenders and processes about 25,000 samples a year. Upon-arrest collection would add 60,000 samples a year, requiring staff and space.
Officials at the state House hearing said state police would need $6.9 million a year to hire about 30 staffers, and $29 million to build a new facility.
Pileggi said even if the state did not expand collection, it needs to upgrade its system. As a result of widespread use of DNA, the lab's staff has doubled to 50 in the past three years.
“As technology changes, there needs to be an increase of resources,” he said.
I was convicted in 2013 of lewd and lascivious behavior, a non-person misdemeanor, after 90 days in jail in Wichita Kansas. I was not told that I would be required to register until after the paperwork was signed and I went to talk to my probation officer. In the end, I was still required to do so.
Over the past 10 years I have faithfully registered wherever I was, even when I had to register in 2 different states at the same time because I lived in one and worked in another. And then, with 1 year left to register, Kansas ADDED 5 more years, retroactively to my registration requirements, I suppose I was lucky because some received more.
So now I move to Oklahoma for a job promotion. Turns out that now that I'm here, regardless of what the state says where the offense occurred, I must now register for LIFE. What the heck? So in 5 years, when my requirements are met in Kansas, I must continue to register in Oklahoma.
In all this time, I've lost jobs, been refused jobs and homes,been required to move, and suffered ridicule from neighbors and co-workers. I've never re-offended or had any kind of trouble. I've worked hard and climbed the ladder so as to have a pretty good job and my employer has supported me along the way. I guess you could say that I'm lucky, but I prefer to think that the harder I work, the luckier I get. Still, retroactive means just that, and it's unconstitutional. But until law makers find a better, more effective way of gaining votes, sex offenders will continue to be their go-to line for being tough on crime because it just "sounds right."
Until we can get lawmakers to THINK with their heads and not their desire to remain in office, we've got our hands full. But little by little, I hope that we can stop the erosion of our rights and liberties. Sure, there are some offenders who have rightfully lost their liberties and freedoms, but there are those of us who have followed the law, done what was asked/required of us, and have earned those freedoms and liberties back. The best sex-offender is a tax-paying, producing member of society. This should be the goal, not finding ways to make our lives harder and tracking more of us.