Home > abduction, assault, Missing Persons, Murder, rape, Sexual Assault and Rape, Teens, Tweens > After Another Murder, Another Proposed Law

After Another Murder, Another Proposed Law

April 13, 2010

The Bay Area – The US Times

April 13, 2010, 4:13 pm

<!– — Updated: 4:13 pm –>

After Another Murder, Another Proposed Law

By GERRY SHIH

Megan, Jessica, now Chelsea — each name a legislative expression of public fury.

The rape and murder of 17-year-old Chelsea King outside a San Diego park sparked a media firestorm and incensed residents in Southern California after the police charged John Albert Gardner III, a convicted sex offender, with the crimes.

Mr. Gardner has pleaded not guilty and is awaiting trial. He was released from prison in 2006 after serving time for beating and molesting a 13-year-old, and records show that he had committed seven parole violations in the time between his release and the rape and murder of Ms. King.

On Monday in Sacramento, Kelly and Brent King announced a bill called Chelsea’s Law, named after their daughter. The bill notably includes a “one strike” provision that would allow prosecutors to pursue a life sentence without parole for forcible sex crimes against a minor when there are aggravating circumstances such as torture and kidnapping.

“Life without possibility of parole for a violent sexual predator is needed,” Mr. King told reporters. “These offenders cannot be rehabilitated. They do not deserve a second chance.”

The parents were joined at the capitol by Nathan Fletcher, the Republican assemblyman from San Diego who sponsored the bill.

Still, the proposed legislation is reigniting the debate over the the efficacy, justness and consequences of laws against sex offenders that have been ushered through during the emotionally fraught periods following shocking and high-profile crimes.

Chelsea’s Law would increase — to 25 years from 15 years — the minimum sentence for forcible sex crimes that involve minor aggravating circumstances, like drugging the victim. Those convicted of sex crimes against children younger than 14 would also face lifetime of parole that included G.P.S. monitoring. And, instead of a residency restriction such as those contained in previous sex offender legislation, Chelsea’s Law forbids outright sex offenders from visiting public spaces like parks without the express permission of their probation officers.

Mr. Fletcher said he drafted and revised the bill after consulting law enforcement officials, judges, community forums in his district and Bonnie M. Dumanis, the district attorney of San Diego County. His office has received a deluge of calls from constituents who support his measure, Mr. Fletcher said, and his district has galvanized around the issue.

“You feel anger, you feel rage, you feel frustration,” Mr. Fletcher said. “Now the community is channeling all those emotions into motivation for change.”

A local radio station paid for passenger buses to take San Diego residents to Sacramento on Monday evening ahead of a “Sunflower Ovation” event on Tuesday morning, when the King family’s supporters will spread 1,000 sunflower petals on the capitol steps and press legislators to support Chelsea’s Law. As of late Monday, a Facebook group supporting Chelsea’s Law had over 76,000 fans, many of whom had adopted the group’s sunflower motif as their personal profile photo.

But these sex offender laws have historically courted controversy, largely from legal groups that say the restrictions infringe on the offender’s basic civil rights.

When reached on Monday, the office of California Attorney General Jerry Brown said Monday that it was too early to comment on Chelsea’s Law as it had been just been introduced, but the office would be “closely examining the details of this bill.”

The California Attorneys for Criminal Justice opposes the bill because it said there is no proof that longer sentences and parole terms are effective, KGO-TV reported. The group also said the state would not be able to afford to implement the measures.

In January, California’s Sexual Offender Management Board concluded that Jessica’s Law was in fact potentially harmful as it displaced hundreds of convicted offenders from their homes, heightening the likelihood that they might recommit crimes.

“I don’t understand how the public feels safer with me roaming the streets aimlessly,” one convicted offender, who was allowed to visit his family only four hours a day, told The San Francisco Chronicle.

And in March, an East Bay community discovered that it had no way of enforcing Jessica’s Law even as a convicted sex offender moved into a home directly across the street from an elementary school. The loophole existed because the bill, while passing comfortably with strong public support, never included a punishment in its language. Other enforcement loopholes are manifold.

Franklin Zimring, a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law, told The New York Times that sex offender laws were sometimes nothing more than a barometer of public opinion.

“They’re a plebiscite on sex offenders, and no one likes sex offenders,” Professor Zimring said. “It’s not like they have a lobbying group.”

But Mr. Fletcher portrayed Ms. King’s murder as a case of a convicted offender falling through gaps in the criminal justice system and guaranteed that his bill would greatly bolster any previous legislation.

“Our mission here isn’t just about proposing new laws,” the assemblyman said.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]
Advertisements
%d bloggers like this: