Thoughts on Politicians’ Perversion of the Law

Wild-eyed blathering manic panic, driven by politicians who champion sex-offender punishments that are just plain stupid, has reached a point where it even wrecks the lives of the demonstrably falsely accused.

A case in point: A football coach arrested on suspicion of a child porn offense, but the charges are dropped when it is found that the charges are based on images he took of his own little kids after they had their nightly baths. Even after the charges are dropped, however, the man is fired from his job.

Our Notes from the Handbasket correspondent has some thoughts on this perversion of the law.

Reason and Justice Re-emerging in Decisions on Former Sex Offenders?

by Gus

The issue of punishing sex offenders more is always a popular one. The U.S. Supreme Court opened the door in Smith v. Doe (538 U.S. 84, 2003) for states to make sex offender registries as onerous as they’d like without worry about constitutionality, saying that registries were civil and regulatory, not punishment.
With a track record like that, and like the recent Kebodeauxdecision, its no surprise that those who view the punishment for sex offenders as unending would be skeptical about US v. Paroline, which was decided today.
The Paroline case involved restitution in cases where a defendant was convicted of child pornography charges where a victim depicted in one of the files seeks monetary damages from the defendant. To be sure, the continuing emotional damage from users downloading and keeping images of their sexual abuse is worthy of monetary damage awards.
“Amy,” the woman seeking damages in this case, estimates her total damages at $3.4 million over her lifetime. That number isn’t in question. Paroline, who possessed two images of her sexual abuse, should be on the hook to pay Amy. But how much?
Amy seeks the full $3.4 million from Paroline. The district judge awarded none and the appeals court said the full amount would be OK.
The issue then is this: should each defendant be on the hook to pay Amy $3.4 million each?
In a 5-4 split decision today, the U.S. Supreme Court said no.  However, they didn’t go further than that. Justice Kennedy penned the opinion and had this to say on the matter:
“There remains the question of how district courts should go about determining the proper amount of restitution. At a general level of abstraction, a court must assess as best it can from available evidence the significance of the individual defendant’s conduct in light of the broader causal process that produced the victim’s losses.”
This will ultimately make a mess of things at the district level and wind up back on the high court’s docket in a year or two. However, the silver lining is there, albeit hard to see: In the first decision in recent memory, the Supreme Court took an action that didn’t completely hammer a defendant just because he was a sex offender.
The tide may be turning up at that high court the way it is here in the real world. Not all people labeled as sex offenders are evil, predatory, child-rapist-murders whose punishments can never be harsh enough.

Three justices dissented saying that, without a high burden of proof, no restitution should be awarded. Sotomayor went the other way and said that each defendant should be on the hook for millions.

Omaha World-Herald Story Misses the Point (or Several Points)

by Gus

 Parents, teachers hear from child molesters themselves about how they target kids

The link above is the title of an article written by Lauren Sedam with the Omaha World-Herald. The subject matter covered goes to the heart of one of the biggest arguments against the registry and public disclosure of registrant’s information: most child sexual assault cases are perpetuated by a trusted individual, not a stranger.
If strangers don’t pose the risk, then public registries are useless. However, this story nearly completely ignores this point. From the article: 

About one in five girls and one in 10 boys are sexually abused, she said. Offenders, Jensen said, are master manipulators. They are rarely strangers, and they often work their way into children’s lives slowly, making both children and parents comfortable. “Stranger danger is OK, but if that’s the only thing you talk to your kids about, you’re missing the majority of risk,” Jensen said.

First, the one-in-five number is a huge fallacy, perpetuated by surveys done by groups like the CDC and others that ask questions like “have you ever had sex while drunk, sleeping, or times where you couldn’t consent?” Most people have had sex while drunk, but if you’re female, they want to consider it rape/assault.

These studies are done to perpetuate a perception that there is a problem so that funding can be grabbed for prevention of the “problem”.

Second, “Stranger danger is OK”? Its not OK. The piece doesn’t cite the fact that over 90 percent of sexual assault cases are committed by trusted family and friends. Do we focus all our attention on preventing car accidents on less than 10 percent of what causes them? We do not. Drunken driving, distracted driving, and other factors cause a huge portion of the fatal accidents in the U.S. There are virtually no education or preventative measures taken to help prevent hitting deer or handling manufacturer defects. Focusing on former offenders with registries and fear-mongering campaigns is tantamount to focusing all of our traffic-safety efforts on preventing collisions with deer.

Why do they ignore the FACTS?