Below you will find video of the March 10, 2015 Ohio Supreme Court oral arguments in State of Ohio v. Travis Blankenship.
An affair between a 15-year-old and a 21-year-old somehow turned into a criminal matter. Now the older one is set to get his life seriously damaged far into the future with imposition of a modern-day scarlet letter — unless the court takes action. The pair’s mutually agreeable relations have already turned the young man into a felon; in Ohio the minimum legal age for consensual sex is 16. That felony conviction brought jail time of several weeks.
The State of Ohio is not finished with him, though; in the eyes of the law he’s a “sex offender.” Under threat of more incarceration the State of Ohio wants his whereabouts and picture plastered on a public online sex offender registry for 25 years. Every six months he must re-register with the sheriff. Any way out? Move to another state but they’ve all got some variety of this same scarlet letter scheme — now almost 800,000 people on public sex offender registries. A listing there is unlikely to produce job offers or dates. Registered individuals have found themselves targets of vigilantes; there are documented cases of fatal attacks.
Will this young man escape a terrible fate? Watch this video and see a fine Ohio public defender, Katherine Ross-Kinzie, make the case that putting a scarlet letter on her client – and potentially others – is cruel and unusual punishment. Midway through, at the 17 and a half minute mark, Ryan Saunders, a young lawyer representing the Buckeye State, argues this is just what Travis Blankenship deserves and it’s no big deal to be on that registry. Many of the judges jump in, too, with surprising questions.
Click here for the Columbus Dispatch backgrounder on the case.
Click here for the entire case file.