Daily Archives: February 22, 2007

Second challenge to CA Prop. 83 dismissed

The news just keeps on coming! As detailed previously, there was a second challenge to California’s Proposition 83 pending. Well, there’s finally a ruling and a federal judge has ruled that the plaintiff – John Doe – does not have standing to challenge it. The ruling is based on the concession by all that the Proposition is not retroactive and therefore it does not apply to John Doe.

The voter initiative, known as the Sexual Predator Punishment and Control Act, expanded previous restrictions and bars registered sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a school or park.

Lawyers for John Doe had argued the measure would prevent registered sex offenders from living in “virtually every residential neighborhood in every city in California” as well as many suburban areas.

John Doe, who pleaded guilty to a sex offense more than 20 years ago and served three months in confinement, said he feared the law would force him to move from his home, in an unidentified Bay Area community. He argued that would violate a constitutional ban on laws that retroactively increase punishments for a crime.

But White wrote that since all parties in the case now agree that the law doesn’t apply retroactively, John Doe has no standing to challenge the measure.

This opinion, however, did nothing to decide the constitutionality of the proposition as applied to those convicted after it was enacted. That will have to wait for another day as there is yet another case pending in Sacramento.

The opinion is not yet available – except via Pacer and I don’t have access to that yet – so when it does become available on the Circuit Court website, I will link to it here.

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Eyewitness reliability diminishes with age

A University of Virginia study suggests that eyewitness reliability is linked to the age of the eyewitness. According to the study, older eyewitnesses are more likely to be mistaken in recollecting details and are also more likely to be certain about their erroneous recollections.

The researchers said they found through a series of experiments that when younger and older adults were matched on their overall memory for experienced  events, both groups showed comparable rates of suggestibility errors in which they claimed to have seen events in a video that had been suggested in a subsequent questionnaire. However, older adults were “alarmingly” likely to commit these suggestibility errors when they were most confident about the correctness of their response, the press release said. Younger people were more likely to commit these errors when they were uncertain about the accuracy of their response, it said.

Previous studies by other investigators have shown that older adults are more likely than younger people to “remember” events that did not occur, and to misremember events that did occur. The U.Va. study further suggest that this occurs because older adults are more inclined to miscombine details of events, which results in a high degree of confidence that they are remembering these details accurately.

Here is a press release regarding the study. I have been unable to locate a copy of the study. If it is available online for free, please leave a comment with the link and I will add it to the post.

Iowa opposition to sex offender residency restriction laws gaining momentum

Johnson County has now become the 11th county in the state of Iowa to approve a resolution urging the repeal of sex offender residency restriction laws.

In its place, the Iowa State Association of Counties recommends creating “safe zones,” that would prevent sex offenders from entering areas near schools and day cares.“Changing this law doesn’t mean we’re weak on crime,” supervisor Terrence Neuzil said.

The current law makes it difficult for such sex offenders to find a place to live, so some stopped registering on the Iowa Sex Offender Registry or law enforcement lost track of them, Sheriff Lonny Pulkrabek told the board last week.

Here is a great opinion piece from the Daily Iowan, which urges common sense and rationality in dealing with these situations.

The punishing of sex offenders has reached such heightened fervor that there is an expectation of agreement on whatever law or restriction is being proposed – regardless of how ludicrous or ineffective it may be. Imagine the poor politician who has to run with the record of being “soft on sex offenders.” It doesn’t matter how heinous or deplorable the criminal act may be, we are all still responsible for behaving as rational adults in how we handle it.Schools and daycares abound in Iowa City and other areas of the state, resulting in few options for sex offenders looking for a place to reside. This causes problems for law enforcement and affects the community’s level of safety because the restrictions result in the clustering of sex offenders, or sex offenders fails to register because they fear not being able to have a place to live. The behaviors of sex offenders are of obvious concern because of the high rate of recidivism, but that should mean that keeping track of them is more important than deciding where they can live. The law doesn’t prevent them from re-offending; instead, it only works to give a false sense of security.

I have previously blogged about this growing opposition in Iowa, but some of the more dedicated blogs don’t seem to have picked up on it. Perhaps if they read this, they could post more on the events in this particular state. I’d love to read their comments.

Previous posts:
IA county seeks repeal of sex offender law
Prosecutors statement against sex offender restrictions

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Amero sentencing may be delayed

Julie Amero’s defense counsel has requested that the March 2nd sentencing be postponed. Attorney John Cocheo has enlisted the help of famed New Haven attorney William Dow to aid in sentencing.

A formal request for a postponement will be submitted to Judge Hillary Strackbein, he said, to allow Dow time to become familiar with the case. He expects a response by next week.

More on this as a motion is actually filed and a decision is issued. As criminal attorneys know, this sort of thing is not normal, but continuances are often requested and granted.

While everyone waits for this to unfold, read this report from the Center for Safe and Responsible Internet Use entitled The Julie Amero Tragedy [.pdf] It is pretty in-depth and well researched and written. If I have any quibbles with it, I will post them later.

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ACLU suing Michigan over PD System

A Michigan coalition, called The Michigan Coalition for Justice is suing over the state of the public defender system.

Vanita Gupta, ACLU Attorney: “It’s the system, it’s absolutely failing defendants at this time.”

The group is calling for changes through a lawsuit. They want the state to provide funding and oversight of trial level public defense services. They are also calling for an overhaul of the public defense system, to ensure everyone has a right to counsel.

Vanita Gupta: “We are asking the court to declare the current system unconstitutional. It’s not meeting standards, and once that declaration is given, the state legislature should step up and figure out solutions.”

The Governor is reviewing the allegations.

Update: PD Stuff has more (as always).