March 15, 2007
The "logic" behind Jessica's Law

This DMN article is about the qualms that District Attorneys have about "Jessica's Law", but it also very neatly captures the weird logic being employed by some of that law's supporters.

Mr. Dewhurst said that while the state should be sensitive to district attorneys' views, he believes that the bill would be a deterrent to those who might prey on children.

"It's to send a message to child molesters: Don't do this; don't do it in Texas, for heaven's sake," Mr. Dewhurst said.

Attorney General Greg Abbott also urged that the proposal be passed and dismissed concerns raised by some that if child molesters realize they could get the same punishment for killing the victim or letting them go, that it could be an inducement to commit murder.

"Frankly, I think that such claims are ludicrous. I don't know about you, but I cannot recall a time when a sex offender, having committed a crime, pulls out the code of criminal procedure or the penal code to try to figure out what likely is going to happen," Mr. Abbott said.

What "message" is Jessica's Law sending to child molesters? That molesting children could get them sent to Death Row. That is why David Dewhurst believes it will act as a deterrent.

"Baloney!" says Greg Abbott. Criminals don't pay attention to such trivia, and they certainly don't base their actions on what the criminal code says. This would make for an interesting debate, if Dewhurst and Abbott were on opposite sides of the issue. Oddly enough, they're both arguing in favor of Jessica's Law. Talk about a win-win situation!

Of course, as the District Attorneys and victims' right advocates keep saying, the problem is not with how the penalties for sexaully assaulting children will affect the criminals' behavior, but how it will affect the victims' behavior. It's easy and painless to demagogue about strangers on streetcorners, but the reality is that a child is most at risk for sexual assault from someone he or she knows. A child that has been assaulted by a family member is already going to be reluctant to pursue charges. If doing so means that family member may end up on the wrong end of a needle, he or she will be even more reluctant to come forward and ultimately to testify. That as much as anything is why people object to the death penalty provision in this law. It's not only not helpful, it's potentially very hurtful.

But hey, what are such considerations when you can be Tuff On Crime?

[Abbott] also said that there is a possibility that courts would declare the statute unconstitutional because it extends capital punishment in a case where no one was killed. But he vowed to defend it before the U.S. Supreme Court, if necessary.

If only there were that dedication and passion within Greg Abbott's office for all manners of sexual assault.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on March 15, 2007 to That's our Lege

Greg Abbott no doubt intends to have a future career in Texas politics and defending Jessica's Law in a Supreme Court hearing would serve that cause well. His recent opinion on the legality of local sex offender residency ordinances is probably unconstitutional, as well, but we have come to recognize (hello Alberto Gonzales)that the law is irrelevant when it suits one's political aspirations.

Posted by: Dennis on March 15, 2007 7:31 AM

When are the politicians going to have the guts to stand up and inform the public that these laws do not work. These laws would not have saved Jessica Lunsford herself. They would not have saved Polly Klaas or Adam Walsh or any of the other high profile cases you have read about. When did you hear of this type of crime being committed at a school or park? Where someone lives has no bearing on whether they will commit a crime against a child. It's time to stop wasting precious time and tax resources on an ineffective, unenforceable, and most likely, unconstitutional law. It is shameful and disgusting to see legislators and politicians pushing for these laws simply to look good to their constituents who have no idea that these laws are a fraud. It is nothing more than a scam for votes. But some of us know the difference and it's time for everyone to know the truth.

Posted by: leah on March 15, 2007 2:09 PM

Jessica's Law, Adam Walsh Act & North Carolina Lawmakers!

We have watched the news cover the Jessica Lunsford trial and to know that a child suffered at the hands of a sex offender, when it could have been prevented should be galvanizing our law makers, to enact. This could have been your daughter, just imagine the anguish any parent would have to live with, if this happened to them. John Couey, who was convicted, had a record as a sex offender and was just released from prison, at the time of her murder. There are many John Couey types and one could be living next to you.

Often, administration has failed to let law enforcement know of the placement of paroled sex offenders in their communities. Allowing violent sex offenders to go free and not providing mandatory hearings, stricter penalties for non-compliances. This has allowed dangerous parolees to remain free, even after they violated parole. Psychological damage inflicted on defenseless child lasts a lifetime, if they survive. Sexual predators are always looking for their next victim.

North Carolina has many sex offenders, who have fallen thought the cracks. By changing their identity and not re-registering once moved, these offenders manipulate the system.

The Basic Statistics:

95% of children that are molested know and trust their molester.

90% of sex crimes are committed against someone the perpetrator knows.

20% of girls and 17% of boys will be molested before their 18th birthday.

North Carolina has 111,000 children yearly reported "Abused" and "Neglected.? Presently, 10,000 registered "Sex Offenders" move to a new address or jobs daily. Children, women, elderly, incapacitated or handicapped people are especially at risk from sexual predators. Charlotte is no different; our city has a large number of registered sexual offenders.

The laws pertaining to Sex Offenders had been lacking in North Carolina. Still, North Carolina state lawmakers and officials' priorities lack necessary guidelines pertaining to North Carolina Sex Offenders.


Over the past several years, I have given time to push for tougher laws, regarding sex crimes, especially sexual predators. Personally, I have worked with sexually abused children and have seen the effects. Words cannot even begin to describe seeing the rape of child?s innocent soul. The soul is amputated and takes a lifetime to repair, if ever!

Recently, I heard from Marc Klaas. In 1993 his 12 year-old daughter Polly Hannah Klass was kidnapped and murder. Ever since, Marc has crusaded for stricter laws and awareness regarding sex offenders. I agree 100% with Marc Klaas that North Carolina still needs stick laws regarding sex offenders.

(Letter from Marc Klass)


On July 27, 2006 President Bush signed the Adam Walsh Act that dramatically changes the way sex offenders will be treated in the USA. One significant portion of the Walsh Act pertains to sentencing and mandatory minimum sentences. I have attached a PDF overview of the Act so you will want to pay particular attention to all sections that refer to sentencing. In essence individuals that kill or harm children during the commission of a sexual assault will most likely spend the rest of their lives behind bars. Those offenders who fail to comply with registration laws will similarly be returned to prison for lengthy sentences. Law enforcement will have important new tools to track and monitor offenders and the public will have access to a one-stop shop with a national sex offender registry that can be accessed via the Internet. Of course, federal law has limited leverage as it pertains to criminal justice, but the Walsh Act cleverly attaches a three-year time limit with significant bonus payments for states that beat the deadline and penalties for states that fail to comply. This is the same mechanism that was used to turn Megan?s Law from a concept into national policy. You might want to bring this to the attention of your state legislators. They can turn their tune pretty quickly when money is involved.

*PDF of the Adam Walsh Act:

National Integration:

􀂄Requires States to have a uniform, public access sex offender registration Website;

􀂄Creates Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Website;

􀂄Expands sex offenders to include juvenile sex offenders;

􀂄Requires States to notify each other when sex offender moves from one State to another;

􀂄Expands sex offenses covered by registration and notification requirements to include military, tribal, foreign, sex crimes, and increases duration of registration requirements;

􀂄Fully integrates Megan?s Law;

􀂄Adds the ?Use of the Internet to facilitate or commit a crime against a minor? as one that could trigger registration.


􀂄Requires state prisons to notify states attorneys whenever ?high risk? offenders are about to be released, so that states attorneys can petition the courts for continued confinement if an individual is deemed a continuing threat to the public safety;

􀂄Creates new criminal penalty of mandatory minimum of 5 years to maximum of 20 years for sex offender who fails to comply with registration requirements;

􀂄Provides funding for law enforcement to purchase programs ?like JusticeXchange ?to identify individuals currently in jail;

􀂄Makes failing to register or update registry information as proscribed in the Act a strict liability crime.

Mandatory Minimums:

􀂄Death Sentence or Life without Parole (LWOP): If the crime of violence results in the death of a person who has not attained the age of 18 years;

􀂄Life or any term of years not less than 30: If the crime of violence is kidnapping, aggravated sexual abuse, sexual abuse, or maiming, or results in serious bodily injury;

􀂄Life or any term of years not less than 20: If the crime of violence results in bodily injury;

􀂄Life or any term of years not less than 15: If a dangerous weapon was used during and in relation to the crime of violence;

􀂄Life or any term of years not less than 10: In any other case.

Law Enforcement Management:

􀂄Expands community notification requirements to include law enforcement agencies, schools, public housing, social service agencies and volunteer organizations in area where sex offender resides, works or attends school;

􀂄Expands law enforcement use of DNA to solve sex crimes;

􀂄A sex offender will have to register prior to release from prison or supervised release;

􀂄Sex offenders will have to re-register in person twice a year (every three months for a sexually violent predator) ?not just once;

􀂄Improves verification systems for sex offender information by requiring monthly verification, sex offender in-person verification every six months, and regular notarized verification mailings;

􀂄The duration to register for a first-time sex offender increases from 10 years to 20 years and for second offenders and sexually violent offenders for their lifetime;

􀂄Any change of status requiring a registry update (change of address, employment, etc.) must be made 3 business days after the change occurs ?not 10 days;

􀂄Requires offenders to notify police when they enroll or attend (current law is just attend) high schools, vocational/technical institutions or higher education institutions;

􀂄Creates a 3-year pilot program to help states and local governments outfit sex offenders with electronic and GPS tracking devices.

Public Awareness:

􀂄Requires the U.S. Justice Department to create a public accessible Internet based national sex offender database that allows users to specify a search radius across state lines.

􀂄Requires States to have a uniform, public access sex offender registration website.

􀂄Requires a mandatory annual photograph that must be posted on State online registries.


􀂄Bonus Payments: Provides bonus payments to states for complying with this Act sooner than its three-year timeline.

􀂄Penalties: Provides a 10 percent reduction in Justice Assistance Grants and certain reductions of Sex Offender Management Assistance Program monies for those states that do not comply.

Polly?s Dad

Presently our state lawmakers are inconclusive towards Jessica's Law. If our lawmakers would take the following steps this would be step in right direction.

North Carolina Lawmakers need to take a stand and apply the needed differences have Jessica?s Law.

North Carolina Lawmakers should take advantage of the Adam Walsh Act and use the monetary bonus payment available to those states complying with the act sooner than its three-year timeline. Rather than a 10 percent reduction in Justice Assistance Grants and certain reductions of Sex Offender Management Assistance Program monies for those states that do not comply with Adam Walsh Act.

Mark A. Palmer
[email protected]

Posted by: Mark A. Palmer on March 17, 2007 7:17 AM