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Victim’s Legacy: Tough Sex-Crime Laws

September 2, 2010 1 comment

Victim’s Legacy: Tough Sex-Crime Laws

1 man, 2 murders lead to tough laws for sex crimes against children

(CNN) — Brent King says it still “takes my breath away” to talk about his daughter in the same sentence as the man who killed her.

But he takes comfort in the knowledge that new California legislation named after his daughter, Chelsea King, will help protect other people’s children from sex crimes.

“If this legislation would’ve been in place before, Chelsea would still be with us,” King said, speaking Tuesday about Chelsea’s Law, which he and his wife, Kelly, worked on with state Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher.

Chelsea’s Law is awaiting Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s signature after unanimously passing the Senate and Assembly in a rare display of bipartisanship.

Formally known as AB 1844, the bill creates mandatory sentences of life without parole for violent sexual offenses against children. Another major provision of the 62-page bill is lifetime parole for people who commit certain sex crimes against minors.

Read the complete text of the bill

It’s not the only proposed legislation to arise out of the heinous acts of registered sex offender John Gardner III, who admitted in March to killing 17-year-old Chelsea King.

A few days after her body was found, he led authorities to the remains of 14-year-old Amber Dubois, who had been missing for more than a year. Gardner was sentenced to three consecutive terms of life without parole for the murders and an attack on a jogger.

The deaths of the young girls provided impetus for a flurry of tougher proposed laws aimed at protecting children.

If this legislation would’ve been in place before, Chelsea would still be with us.
–Brent King, father and bill proponent

Dubois’ father is behind three assembly bills concerning law enforcement response to missing children. Among the legislative proposals:

— Creating a rapid response team in the state Attorney General’s Office to help find abducted children.

— Reducing the minimum time for reporting a missing child from four hours to two.

— Enhanced training for police officers who search for missing children.

The four bills are on their way to Schwarzenegger’s desk after being fast-tracked through the Legislature. Chelsea’s Law also has an urgency clause that means it will take effect as soon as Schwarzenegger signs it. The Dubois bills do not have an urgency clause and would take effect in January 2011.

The bills could have a ripple effect as King actively tries to get other states to adopt similar legislation.

Read how Chelsea’s killer targeted others

The speed of passage was rare for the California legislature, but not without precedent from other child safety legislation, said Mark Klaas, president and founder of KlaasKids Foundation, a nonprofit devoted to fighting crimes against children.

“California has a history of responding very strongly to vicious sex crimes against kids, especially in an election year,” Klaas said. “When you have the fresh memory of a beautiful young girl murdered by a person who shouldn’t have been out in the first place, they’re going to respond accordingly.”

He cited the passage within months of a three-strikes law named for his daughter, Polly, who was abducted during a sleepover and murdered in 1993. Jessica’s Law, which increased penalties for certain crimes against minors, also passed within months of being introduced, Klaas said.

Klaas said he believes the Dubois bill will have a more immediate effect than Chelsea’s Law.

No matter how slight the offense, everyone in California is included in the same net.
–Anonymous mother of man on sex offender registry

“Sentencing gets a lot of publicity, but they rarely seem to deliver on the promises. Other administrative bills are less colorful and more localized, but they have a possibility of helping shore up infrastructure,” he said.

Gardner was paroled September 26, 2005, after serving five years for two counts of lewd and lascivious acts on a child younger than 14 and a single count of false imprisonment for attacking a 13-year-old neighbor.

Under Chelsea’s Law, lewd and lascivious acts on a minor will carry a mandatory sentence of life without parole. The “one-strike” provision applies to forcible sex crimes against minors that include aggravating factors, such as the victim’s age or whether the victim was bound or drugged.

“Because of what he’d done previously to the 13-year-old girl, he would have been given life without the possibility of parole,” Brent King said. “He never would’ve been let out, and Chelsea never would’ve been harmed.”

King and other supporters say the bill is the most sweeping reform of its kind in recent California history, touching upon sentencing and parole as well as treatment and funding.

Opponents of Chelsea’s Law call it another feel-good measure that pushes registered sex offenders further to the fringes of society.

“No matter how slight the offense, everyone in California is included in the same net, ridicule, rules and restrictions,” said a San Diego woman whose adult son is on the registry for improperly touching a 16-year-old girl.

He lost custody of his son. As a result of residency restrictions, he had to move in with his parents, she said.

The mother asked that her name be withheld for fear of reprisal against her family.

“Our constitutional rights are violated daily, and no one in this country cares,” she wrote in an e-mail. “This new law is yet another ‘feel good’ law that further damages families of those on the registry, and will no doubt add millions of tax burdens to taxpayers.”

The woman and her son live in the same neighborhood where the Kings lived when Chelsea was alive. After Chelsea disappeared, the King family asked neighbors to tie blue ribbons around trees in her memory. The King family relocated to Illinois a few weeks ago.

A lot of laws regarding child safety just aren’t really implemented. All you have to do is look at John Gardner.
–Mark Klaas, child safety activist

“Every morning, I awaken to blue ribbons tied to the trees across the street. A daily reminder that we are now lepers,” the San Diego woman said in her e-mail. “What happened to Chelsea was an unimaginable tragic event caused by one sick individual.” In response to criticism that the legislation took a “one-size-fits-all” approach to punishing sex offenses and managing paroled sex offenders, Fletcher amended the bill in committee. It now includes criteria for assessing the risk of recidivism and, based on that risk, placing certain paroled sex offenders under greater supervision. The bill also calls for those risk assessment “scores” to be included in the offenders’ online profiles on the Megan’s Law website, California’s version of the sex offender registry. “We will be instituting a dynamic risk assessment, which means it can change on a monthly basis and it will be based on a whole series of factors, not just the crime,” said Fletcher, who introduced the legislation in the state assembly in April. The bill also allows the use of polygraphs in parole supervision. “This legislation provides experts with better tools than the ones available now to assess risk. If you have a sex offender who’s not compliant, their risk assessment level will go up, they’ll get more visits and supervision,” Fletcher said. The amended legislation also addresses funding for changes expected to cost tens of millions of dollars over the next decade, according to a preliminary study by the state Legislative Analyst’s Office. The crime of petty theft will be downgraded to a misdemeanor, clearing clogged court dockets and freeing space in jails and prisons. Despite its broad sweep, Brent King says the bill’s cornerstone is the one-strike provision. “It was my and Kelly’s belief that there was no reason that we could find that people who targeted young children violently could ever be reformed, so why give these violent sexual predators an opportunity to strike twice? That was our premise and it grew from there,” he said. King said he has identified four states that are interested in adopting similar legislation but he would not name them. “I think California has taken such a strong step forward that I’m excited about taking Chelsea’s Law across the nation.”

Respectfully Submitted Via:

Emanuella Grinberg, CNN

Pat Brown, Criminal Profiler Weighs In On Susan Murphy-Milano’s “Time’s Up”

April 26, 2010 Comments off

Criminal Profiling Topic of the Day: TIME’S UP for Domestic Abuse

Pat Brown, The Daily Profiler

April 26, 2010

We hear the term, “Domestic Abuse,” thrown around quite a bit and it is worth taking a look at what it really means in our own lives. Is it physical, mental, or both? When does one spouse’s treatment of the other cross the line from just imperfect humans struggling in a relationship to one partner mistreating the other? After all, we know that marriage can be “work” and issues have to be dealt with and ironed out. We are going to disagree, even argue and be mad at each other, and, sometimes, we are not going to actually be able to kiss and make-up before bedtime. When should one start to worry that there is something really wrong with our marriage partnership?

I would say it is when the “partnership” becomes a boss and employee relationship and the boss is someone we would like to fire. While everyone wants power and control in life, a spouse must be willing to share that power and control with their partner, work together to achieve a balance where both parties are satisfied with the equation. Doing so is not a problem for those who love their spouse and want to see their spouse happy and want to achieve a positive and pleasing family life. Working together is an expectation for a committed couple and being good role models for the children is a natural desire for caring parents.

When one spouse becomes the master, putting his or her needs and desires above the spouse’s, doesn’t care how his/her mate feels, ignores the impact of this imbalance on the children, this is abuse – whether it is in the form of emotional manipulation of physical domination.

Ideally, one should wait a reasonable period of time before having children to see if one’s mate is one’s best friend, that you work out fair solutions to problems, that your beloved really loves you, and you are happy together. You need a couple of years, if not more, to find out whether you have just signed up for a partnership or a prison term. If your marriage sucks, having children in it will make it suck more and, worse, it will trap you for years and years as now you have a family you don’t want to destroy.

But, let’s suppose you have already blown it and you are stuck in a nightmare; you are being mentally or physically tortured with regularity and you fear your mate instead of feeling safe in their company. It’s time to make the decision to leave. Susan Milano-Murphy, one of my fellow bloggers at Women in Crime Ink knows well when someone should make a break for it and titles her new book on escaping abuse, TIME’S UP: A Guide on How to Leave an Abusive and Stalking Relationship.

If you are not frightened of your mate, you can simply state you want a separation, make plans to live in different residences, and, if you feel there is any hope through counseling, give your spouse a chance to make a change if he/she really wants to do so. If you think past behavior is pretty much a predictor of future behavior, then you are probably right (because it usually is), and you need to make the best choices you can for the well-being of the children.

But, if you are in a physically dangerous situation, if your spouse has been violent or threatening or coldly psychopathologically scary, you will want to get Susan’s book, TIME’S UP! This book doesn’t merely discuss when you should leave or why you should leave, it tells you HOW you should leave. The book has step-by-step instructions how to covertly make a plan, set-up a safe escape, deal with financial issues, and the paperwork. Susan even takes you line-by-line through the process, the forms, the legal issues…she takes you by the hand, and, believe me, when you are being terrorized and you are an basket case, you don’t need vague ideas, you need specific instructions. TIME’S UP can save your life and your sanity. If you need to get out, get this book before you make a mistake that could be fatal. It is money well spent.

Resources:
Order “Time’s Up!”
Order “Moving out, moving on”
Order “Defending our Lives”
Overview of Susan’s work
Abuse document and video

Susan Murphy-Milano’s website

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