Daily Archives: March 18, 2010

Sex-y times at the state lege

It’s the middle of the legislative season and just like all of us, the state legislature has sex on their minds. Sex related bills, I mean. No, wait, not dollars bills that you – nevermind. This is a family-friendly blog.

During public hearings to be conducted tomorrow and on Monday, the judiciary committee will consider a slew of bills focusing on sex and sex offenders. I’m here to give you the rundown on what they are and why they’re all bad (except one).

S.B. No. 33 An act concerning the registration of sexual offenders

This is, of course, the State equivalent of the awful, awful federal Adam Walsh Act. For 7 reasons why this bill is evil and must be defeated, see here.

S.B. No. 34 An act concerning computer crimes against children

This bill amends the “Enticing a Minor” statute by making it a crime to not exactly entice a minor to do anything:

or (2) display such person’s intimate parts through the use of a digital camera capable of downloading still or video images to a computer for transmission over the Internet or through the use of other available technology, or engage in a sexual act through the Internet or by telephone.

In fact, I’m not even sure that subsection (2) requires that the minor view any of these, um, intimate parts.

S.B. No. 479 (RAISED) AAC the attendance of registered sexual offenders at school functions involving their children.

Registered sex offenders are permitted to enter school property to attending school functions and/or meet with school personnel regarding their own children. That this bill is needed is the perfect example of just how stupid our sex offender laws are getting.

H.B. No. 5486 (RAISED) AAC residency restrictions for registered sexual offenders.

That this bill has been introduced comes as no surprise. The only surprise (to me) is that it took until 2010 for our state legislature to consider residency restrictions. My battle against residency restrictions is well documented. This bill has bad parts and “oh look we’re learning from other states” parts.

The bad: There’s a 2000 feet buffer zone. Which means that sex offenders will be banned from living anywhere in the state.

The “oh look we’re learning”: Grandfather clauses for those who already live somewhere within 2000 feet of any place a child may conceivably one day dream of going and for those whose houses may one day in the future fall within a 2000 feet zone.

The “good, I guess”: A violation is only a Class A misdemeanor.

H.B. No. 5533 (RAISED) AAC sexting.

Yes, sexting. That venerable institution of teens everywhere. What we used to call, back in the day, a good old-fashioned game of “doctor”.

Except this is the good bill I mentioned earlier. Thanks to Norm’s post, I see that the bill actually reduces the penalties for “sexting” from a D felony to an A misdemeanor.

The Limp Writ

Since the time of the Magna Carta, prisoners have been able to challenge the legality of their incarceration by petitioning for a writ of habeas corpus, long known as the Great Writ. We inherited “this powerful tool for . . . protect[ing] . . . individuals’ constitutional and statutory rights . . . from Great Britain,” which formalized it in the Habeas Corpus Act of 1679. In The Federalist, Alexander Hamilton argued that the Constitution should provide for the writ “in the most ample manner” because it served as a bulwark against “arbitrary methods of prosecuting pretended offenses [and] arbitrary punishments upon arbitrary convictions.”

The drafters of the Constitution imbedded it in Article I before adopting the Bill of Rights. The Supreme Court has attested to the writ’s significance on many occasions. At different times, the Court has declared that habeas corpus is intended “to liberate an individual from unlawful imprisonment,” a procedure for “securing to the petitioners their constitutional rights,” and “the best and only sufficient defense of personal freedom,” which if withdrawn, “risk[s] injury to an important interest in human liberty.” Most recently, the Court described the writ of habeas corpus as a “vital instrument” to securing “freedom from unlawful restraint,” such freedom being “a fundamental precept of liberty”.

And all of that would mean absolutely nothing if a bill currently in the state legislature were to pass. A bill, that in my view, comes dangerously close to an actual suspension of the writ in certain circumstances.

That such a bill is being considered by lawmakers is a monumental slap in the face to the very principles upon which the justice system in this country was built. The bill is born of a misbegotten belief that the courts in Connecticut are “overwhelmed” with “needless” and “repetitive” habeas petitions, whereby inmates [read: criminals/scum of the earth/them, not us] “abuse” the system. Putting aside the fact that the current pending habeas petitions represent a mere 10% or so of the incarcerated population [and an even smaller percentage of total convictions in the state], the idea that a State would be willing to eviscerate so fundamental a protection without the slightest trepidation is repugnant.

Making this proposal even more jarring is the granting of The Great Writ yesterday in a case where the two petitioners were found by the court to be actually innocent after 16 years in jail [make sure you read the decision by Judge Fuger]. If this bill were to pass, it would convert the sharp scythe that the Great Writ is meant to be into a limp sword of cardboard used in middle school productions.

Let us count the ways in which this bill sticks a big middle finger right through The Great Writ and the ways in which this will only generate more litigation and require more expenditure:

It sucks getting old

Pardon the short missive, but i would be remiss if I didn’t remark on this, the 47th year of my existence.

I have a number of posts bubbling under, but we should all take a minute today to reflect on Gideon’s legacy and the absolute mess public defender systems are in around the country.

The promise of my youthful idealism seems so far away now. More than ever, I firmly believe that we are Sisyphus.