The Harmless Writ: whether you get due process depends on how guilty you are

In The Federalist, Alexander Hamilton argued that the Constitution should provide for the writ [of habeas corpus] “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the petitioners their constitutional rights,” and “the best and only sufficient defense of personal freedom,” which, if withdrawn, “risk[s] injury to an important interest in human liberty.”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.”

Taken, once again, from this law review article [PDF]. To those who don’t know, a petition for writ of habeas corpus is a post-conviction1 avenue to challenge the legality of their incarceration.

As the legendary Judge Weinstein quoted in his report on 500 habeas corpus cases:

The writ tests only whether a prisoner has been accorded due process, not whether he is guilty.

Because, at one point in time, in this country and this legal system, we valued the process as much as the outcome. We placed emphasis on doing things correctly, because we possibly recognized that we all weren’t so blissfully immune from the powerful crosshairs of a runaway government. To that end, judges across the various states and in the federal system were given broad authority to hear these “habeas petitions” challenging the legality of convictions.

Concomitantly, they were given broad powers to fashion remedies, because the harm caused by a violation of a Constitutional right must be made whole as completely as possible.

In Hilton v. Braunskill, Chief Justice Rehnquist wrote

Federal habeas corpus practice, as reflected by the decisions of this Court, indicates that a court has broad discretion in conditioning a judgment granting habeas relief.

So, for example:

Riggs v. Fairman, 399 F.3d 1179 (9th Cir.2005), a district court has considerable discretion in fashioning a remedy tailored to the injury suffered from the constitutional violation, and a court must consider the unique facts and circumstances of a particular case; Jeanty v. Bulger, 204 F.Supp.2d 1366 (S.D.Fla.2002), a court granting a writ of habeas corpus may also issue an injunction in aid of the writ; Gall v. Parker, 231 F.3d 265 (6th Cir.2000), a habeas court has broad discretion in fashioning habeas relief; Hannon v. Maschner, 981 F.2d 1142 (10th Cir.1992), a district court may exercise its broad authority in habeas cases to grant any relief it deems necessary, including 638*638 permanent discharge of a successful habeas petitioner; Hilton v. Braunskill, 481 U.S. 770, 107 S.Ct. 2113, 95 L.Ed.2d 724 (1987), federal courts have largest power to control and direct the form of judgment entered in cases brought up on habeas corpus; Jean v. Meissner, 90 F.R.D. 658 (S.D.Fla.1981), where appropriate, a habeas court may grant injunctive, declaratory and mandatory relief; Hobson v. Murray, 485 F.Supp. 1340 (E.D.Va.1980), federal courts are not narrowly restricted in fashioning an appropriate remedy on granting petition for writ of federal habeas corpus relief but instead, the court is charged to dispose of the matter as law and justice require; U.S. ex. rel. Marrero v. Warden, Lewisburg Penitentiary, 483 F.2d 656 (3rd Cir.1973), immediate and unconditional release is not the only remedy available in a habeas corpus proceeding.

Gentry v. Deuth. In Connecticut, this power, which derives from the habeas corpus court being a “court of equity” is identical to the power of the federal court. There are a set of statutes in this state, duly enacted by the legislature, that create special “habeas corpus courts”2 In CT, the legislature deemed it efficient to consolidate all these petitions in one courthouse in Rockville and assign 2-3 judges there to hear and dispose of all these cases. When I say “habeas court”, I’m referring to a judge assigned to sit as a habeas judge by the administration of the judicial branch. Once a judge has been administratively assigned to assume that role for a period of 2 or 3 years3, the judge takes on the duties, responsibilities and powers of the habeas corpus court which are given to it either by the common law (all the quotes above) or by statute, which states:

(a) The court or judge hearing any habeas corpus shall proceed in a summary way to determine the facts and issues of the case, by hearing the testimony and arguments in the case, and shall inquire fully into the cause of imprisonment and thereupon dispose of the case as law and justice require.

Emphasis added by me. Because as of today, that bolded portion is functionally excised from the law books and placed in the metaphorical trash heap which the CT Supreme Court is doing a fine job of filling with your and my individual rights and liberties.

In a decision today [PDF] in H.P.T. v. Commissioner that is one in a long line of utterly confused and confusing decisions about what, exactly, one must do in order to correct a Constitutional wrong when it comes to bad advice given by an individual’s lawyer, the court effectively divests these “habeas corpus” courts of their long-standing and inherent power to fashion the appropriate remedy.

This supreme court, for some reason, has gotten it into its head for over a decade now, that impartial habeas courts whose job is to determine whether a person has been “accorded due process”, not to sit and once again decide “whether he is guilty” are the wrong jurists to determine just what is to be done once they have decided that there was no due process.

A habeas court, generally, decides three things:

  1. Was there a Constitutional violation?
  2. Was there harm to the individual?
  3. How do we fix it?

There is absolutely no precedent whatsoever for questions 1 & 2 to be decided by one court and question 3 to be answered by another court altogether. And yet here we are in CT where this is precisely what has happened.

Here’s what the court wrote:

the proper remedy remains the same in most cases, namely, remanding the case to the trial court, which is vested with the discretion to [return the individual to pre-harm status]

Except, as we have seen just above, it is the habeas court, not the trial court that is “vested with the discretion”.

In order for its proposition, this opinion in H.P.T. cites only two cases4. One is its own opinion from last year in Ebron v. Commissioner, which is based primarily on a (deliberate?) misreading of Lafler and Frye and Lafler itself. The problem is that the SCOTUS cases of Lafler and Frye deal with setups where the trial court and the habeas court are one and the same, which is clearly not the scenario here in Connecticut.

So, in this opinion today, the CT Supreme Court has, without being asked to or without any due consideration, effectively repealed a statute duly passed by the State legislature. It has done so for one reason and one reason only:

In our view, the determination of the appropriate remedy will, in most cases, more properly be made by the trial court than by the habeas court because the former generally will have greater experience than the latter in crafting criminal sentences and, in some cases, may have access to information about the petitioner and the crime that is not available to the habeas court.

In other words, because the trial judge will know if he’s a really bad guy who needs to be locked up. The beauty of having an independent court not only evaluate the harm, but then also direct the remedy is that by virtue of being independent, the court has no stake in the game. It is not being asked to second guess or explain its own decision making.

Remember that the trial judge is the one that presided over the case when it was initially pending. This is the judge who may have ruled on discovery requests and, more importantly, conveyed plea bargain offers to the individual’s lawyer. This is the judge who was informed of the vagaries of the case and the strength of the evidence of guilt, or lack thereof. This is a judge who has formed an opinion of the individual’s guilt.

The supreme court says today, in stark contrast to centuries of habeas corpus jurisprudence, that guilt is relevant to determining whether an individual should be afforded the protection of the Constitution against illegal convictions.

The court affirms that as long as someone is guilty, it doesn’t matter how that conviction was obtained.

A Constitutional harm is being weighed not against the principle that was violated or the actual harm caused to an individual, but against the character of that person.

What this decision today does, is give rise to a scenario where questions 1 and 2 above may be answered in the affirmative and question 3 may be answered by a judge with an emotional stake in the outcome who might proffer a middle finger by way of remedy.

We may end up with a situation with absolutely no relief for a proven Constitutional violation. A harm without a remedy is no harm at all.

This court has managed to take the “best and only sufficient defense of personal freedom” and turn it into a harmless piece of paper.

—–

The petulance of power

petulant

Let’s lay it out there: who here doesn’t believe that anyone arrested for a crime is automatically guilty of it? Who here doesn’t believe that there is a very good reason someone’s been arrested: they must’ve done something. Who here doesn’t believe that the system is a necessary inconvenience; a rigmarole we must go through before we arrive at the “truth” that everyone’s known about since the time of arrest.

The legal system – and the criminal justice system in particular – is increasingly viewed as an annoying detour on what should be a very short road from arrest to incarceration. If an arrestee is later found guilty by a jury, well then, I told you so. If an arrestee turns into an acquittee, it doesn’t mean he didn’t do it, just that the State couldn’t prove it. What has come before me, I do not know1.

And while it may be excusable for the masses to believe that the system is a technicality, it is exceptionally shameful for those educated in the law and charged with its conveyance to similarly believe so.

While this desire to dispense with the due process of law because we know better is foul when it emanates from law professors2, it is particularly odious when it extrudes from the pores of our own Champions of Justice: a terrible habit that seems to routinely recur.

Prosecutors can’t seem to keep their hands out of the misconduct jar. And when they engage in this misconduct, they do it over and over again, and indignantly soBecause they know better. Because they know how the system really works and how defense attorneys and the “constitution” are just impediments and tricks that prevent them from doing real justice: putting people who they’ve decided are rapists and murderers behind bars.

They have the power to decide who is a criminal and who is not and by God they’ve decided that long before they start to pick a jury.

Take Sharmese Hodge. A prosecutor in Danbury, Connecticut, who prosecuted a man named Michael Maguire. Hodge alleged that Maguire had sexually assaulted an eight-year old. In fact Hodge was so sure Maguire was guilty of this hyenous3 crime that she said the following4 [PDF] to the jury:

Defense counsel concluded his argument by stating: “I don’t ask you for pity. I don’t ask you for mercy. I ask you for justice. I ask you to set [the defendant] free.”

The prosecutor began her rebuttal closing argument as follows: “Ladies and gentlemen, that’s not what he’s asking you for. What he’s asking you for is to condone child abuse. What he’s asking you for is to allow a world in which a forty-one year old man sticks his hand down the front of an eight year old’s pants, claims to tickle her . . . [t]akes his hand out, smells it while his erect penis is sticking out of his pants, and, because he did that to an eight year old child, because he did it in a room where no one else was present, because he did in it in a house where mom and dad were separated and there was a woman staying the night . . . you can’t find him guilty. That’s what defense [counsel and the defendant want] you to believe. That’s what they want you to do. They want you to condone child abuse in this courtroom. They don’t want you to look at that little girl that sat on the stand and testified before you . . . . They don’t want you to look at her testimony. . . . They want you to say, hey, guess what? Because she’s eight [years old] and it was just her [testimony alone, you should find the defendant not guilty].”

After asserting that defense counsel had “lied to [the victim]” when he told her that his questions were not intended to trick her, the prosecutor returned to her earlier theme, stating: “So when [defense counsel] sits here and says to you today, we’re not here to condone child abuse or we’re not trying to beat up . . . on the [victim], listen to that. . . . Is he telling you the truth . . . when he says that?”

Finally, the prosecutor made the following argument with respect to the defendant’s own testimony: “I would assume what you wanted to hear was the truth, not a bunch of excuses, not . . . a big cloud of smoke and mirrors . . . . You wanted to hear the truth. That’s not what you heard. You heard a . . . coached conversation between a defense attorney and his client.” The prosecutor further argued: “[I]t’s not a secret that child abuse is a crime. But what counsel’s asking you to do is to say that . . . child abuse that happens in secret is legal, and that is not the law. I ask you to find the defendant guilty . . . .”

In addition, during the trial, Hodge and the defense attorney Norm Pattis had agreed that the interview of the complainant should be edited to remove portions that did not deal with the current allegations5. Pattis asked the interviewer if he had asked the complainant about inconsistencies in the story (he had not). Hodge then argued in front of the jury that the interviewer indeed had asked about those inconsistencies, but it was in the redacted portion of the interview that the jury was not allowed to see.

Which is not a misrepresentation but a blatant lie.

Why, if you must ask yourself, would a prosecutor argue to a jury that the defendant is asking them to condone child abuse? Why would the prosecutor make an argument so beyond the pale?

Because she believes it. Because she believes it and also believes that juries aren’t to be trusted. Because she knows that her best bet at “winning” is getting people angry. Because emotion is the surest way to a conviction. Because she has decided that Maguire has done wrong and she’ll be damned if she lets due process get in the way of a conviction.

Fortunately, this time our supreme court intervened6:

We agree with the defendant that the prosecutor’s repeated assertions, during her rebuttal closing argument, that the defendant and defense counsel were asking the jury to “condone child abuse” and to find “that . . . child abuse that happens in secret is legal,” and, further, that defense counsel was lying when he stated otherwise, were highly improper and intended not only to appeal to the jurors’ emotions but also to demean the defendant and defense counsel in the eyes of the jurors. In characterizing the defense theory of the case as she did, the prosecutor sought to demonstrate, unfairly, and without a factual basis, that the defense was illegitimate and wholly unworthy of consideration, for no juror reasonably could be expected to credit a defense predicated on condonation or approval of child sexual abuse.

While Mr. Maguire gets a new trial7. it seems that there are no consequences for Ms. Hodge, who appears free to repeat her questionable behavior.

This prosecutorial hubris is not an isolated incident. Defendants and defense counsel are not immune to the petulance of prosecutors. As a jurist, if you stray too far outside the line, you may find yourself banished to traffic court – a tactic seemingly only employed by prosecutors in San Diego8 – or the subject of a 2-year long inquiry into your impartiality. All because you rule in favor of defendants. Another way of saying that is ‘you rule in favor of individual rights and the rule of law.’ But no one says that. You’re partial and need to be banished if you rule for defendants and prosecutors will spend countless hours writing 70-page complaints against you9.

If none of this bothers you, ask yourself why. Even if you are that convinced of the infallibility of individuals who are given this extreme power, doesn’t their petulance and arrogance at being questioned give you pause?

—–

Restoring sanity to child sex cases

For as long as I can remember, there has been one fundamental truth in Connecticut if you are charged with a crime involving a sexual assault: you’re screwed1.

There’s the “liberal” standard of admitting prior sexual assault allegations in a case involving sexual assault, there’s straight up “once a sexual assault criminal, always any other type of criminal” and the almost unhindered admission of any type of “expert” testimony of an “expert” who claims to be an “expert” in the area of child sexual abuse [read: anecdotal evidence predicated solely on confirmation bias] despite a somewhat half-hearted effort to walk that back just ever so slightly and always distinguishably2 and then there’s the only-salvageable-by-judicial-fiat-Risk-of-Injury-statute, which is probably the most dangerous statute for due process and individual liberty and freedom that exists in Connecticut.

Zealous advocacy is not bound by your discomfort

Annex - Monroe, Marilyn (Seven Year Itch, The)_07

In what has become a hallmark of the site, Above the Law yesterday “posted” about a fascinating Massachusetts case and managed to distill it down for their LCD readership: man argues that upskirt photography is protected by the First Amendment.

That led a LawProf Jessica Smith to redistribute the same article with a comment appended:

Mark Bennett, fresh off his 1st Amendment win, does a brilliant job of explaining why not only is this argument the correct argument and that, if the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court wishes to follow the First Amendment, it will be constrained to find the statute unconstitutional, but also that any lawyer who failed to make this argument for a client charged with that statute might well have been ineffective.

Since he’s done the legal mumbo-jumbo, I won’t repeat it. What struck me, though, was the attitude taken that this argument: that a statute is facially or as-applied unconstitutional is outside the bounds of “zealous advocacy”.

Both the post at ATL and Prof. Smith’s appended comment were of a similar vein: have you no shame?

The motivator for that approach, perhaps, is their individual distastes for upskirt photography and their discomfort at the very nature of its existence.

It is one thing for lawyers to hold personal beliefs about laws and acts and what should and shouldn’t be legal1 and another to chastise and impugn another lawyer for making an argument that any halfway competent lawyer should have made.

For if the measure of what is zealous advocacy is one’s personal discomfort for that position, then what would ATL and Prof. Smith have to say about, for instance, Bernard S. Cohen and Philip J. Hirschkop, who argued Loving v. Virginia in a time where interracial marriage wasn’t exactly de rigueur. Or Matthew J. Perry, Constance Baker Motley and Jack Greenberg, who argued for Bouie, et. al., two black college students who were refused service at a restaurant and then ordered to leave for “trespassing”, charged and convicted. Or Doug Nash, of New Haven, CT, who successfully convinced the Connecticut Supreme Court that Judith Scruggs was not guilty of the indecipherably vague “Risk of Injury” statute when her son hanged himself.

It is one thing, for instance, to argue that all non-consensual sexual encounters should be legalized2 and quite another to argue that a person cannot be convicted of sexual assault if a reasonable person would have believed that the complainant actually consented.

It is precisely this attitude3 – that something that affronts us personally must be a violation of the law – that has led to the current state of the system we are in, where the predisposition is toward guilt, where there is no intellectual honesty and where the public are but sharpening their pitchforks at every turn.

The law is motivated and controlled more by emotion today than at any time in the past. For a law professor who purportedly teaches judges and other public employees about the law to question the ethics and zealous advocacy of a lawyer who is seeking to protect our individual rights guaranteed under the Constitution is more discomforting to me than Marilyn Monroe standing above the vents of the subway tracks.

Shooting a stranger on your porch is still a crime: The Stand Your Ground bogeyman

Last Saturday morning, Renisha McBride, a black woman, got into an accident in a very white neighborhood. At around 2:30am, she knocked on a man’s door to ask for help since her cell phone battery was dead. Upon receiving no answer, she turned to walk away at which point she was shot in the back of the head.

Absurd, grotesque, horrifying, infuriating and enraging, all of it.

Stand your ground? Not so much.

Stand your ground, as it is commonly referred to in our lexicon, implies that the user of the phrase is invoking a situation where an initial aggressor doesn’t have a duty to de-escalate or walk away from the situation and, instead, is permitted to use deadly force.

It’s all hogwash. Stand your ground laws (which I do not like)1, empower citizens engaged in lawful activity outside of the home to repel deadly force with deadly force2. It does remove the duty to retreat in a public place, but only in certain circumstances.

Stand your ground laws do not apply to a person inside his own home. Almost every state in the country has no requirement that a person try and “retreat” inside his own home or to another location when attacked in that safe place.3

What the law doesn’t allow, of course, is a license to shoot and kill, without legal consequence, a person who happens to be knocking on your door or standing on your porch or even – in some circumstances – entering your home.

We call that murder4.

Your home is not an independent foreign country and every visitor an enemy incursion that you must repel with ballistic force. This is not Petoria.

Whatever this individual did will per force have to be viewed in a subjective and objective lens. What did he perceive and was that perception rational?

It seems to me, without knowing anything about anything5 that a man shot a woman for no reason. In most states, it is either murder or manslaughter.

What it most certainly is not, is a free pass under Stand Your Ground laws.

But don’t ask me, I’m just a lawyer.

Blawg Review 325.9

There is nothing more rewarding than creating something in this world that will forever be associated with you. We will all die eventually, but it is our ideas that survive us. As I wrote earlier this week, Ed of Blawg Review passed away after a tough battle. In his memory, here is one last Blawg Review, version 9 (see this post at Blawg Review for the other Blawg Reviews going up today, all in memory of Ed).

As with previous Blawg Reviews hosted here, I’m terrible at themes. I’m terrible at bringing things together into one coherent message. I’m terrible at coherent messages. So instead – and I know Ed would appreciate this because he’d send me links on a wide range of topics – I’m presenting the most interesting posts and stories that I’ve found in the last week or so. There are, of course, loose ties, this being a law blog, but the one thing I want to convey about Ed is his sense of wonder and his desire for information and knowledge. If the goal is to learn, then everything is interesting.

So, without further nonsense:

BYI8R-nCAAE5sow

As we Americans listen to the news these days and ponder whether our listening to the news is news to anyone or whether the NSA is aware that we are, at that moment, listening to the news about the NSA listening to us listen to the news, we can perhaps also sit and reflect on whether the Constitution has expired. That, really, is the only conclusion one can reach when one reads stories like this one: where a comment on Facebook about marijuana is reasonable suspicion to believe that the commenter is a drug dealer.

It’s not that it wasn’t a good Constitution or that it embodied wonderful ideas, but that it has outlived its utility – or rather that we have outmaneuvered its utility. This post at The Atlantic1 asks just that question:

America, we’ve got some bad news: Our Constitution isn’t going to make it. It’s had 224 years of commendable, often glorious service, but there’s a time for everything, and the government shutdown and permanent-crisis governance signal that it’s time to think about moving on. “No society can make a perpetual constitution,” Thomas Jefferson wrote to James Madison in 1789, the year ours took effect. “The earth belongs always to the living generation and not to the dead .… Every constitution, then, and every law, naturally expires at the end of 19 years.” By that calculation, we’re more than two centuries behind schedule for a long, hard look at our most sacred of cows. And what it reveals isn’t pretty.

If men (and, finally, women) as wise as Jefferson and Madison set about the task of writing a constitution in 2013, it would look little like the one we have now.

And the one we have now hasn’t been working that well, because it means different things to different people. Like the split between Judge Shira Scheindlin and the Second Circuit on just what makes “stop and frisk” unconstitutional. Even if you assume, as blogger Judge Kopf does, that it wasn’t politically motivated, it is still mindboggling. Is it any wonder, then, that those who are paying attention have little to no confidence in the American judiciary?

But the law is more machinery than a Transformer and as such is hard to move and change: one option suggested recently was to permit jurors to ask questions. An idea that isn’t exactly new, it breathed a gasp of life into the blogosphere last week when Judge Kopf (again) posed the question and Greenfield reminded us that it was asked and answered.

If, suppose, jurors were permitted to ask questions, perhaps they’d look a bit like our non-lawyer blawger friend Windypundit, who took crack at the Federal Rules of Evidence this week and quickly devolved into a metaphysical discussion with the other resident philosopher Jeff Gamso about what, exactly, is a fact. Jamison Koehler, not to be outwaxed, offered his own thoughts on one indisputable “fact”: that the truth rarely matters in a trial.

One seeming universal “fact” is the love affair Americans have with the death penalty. But even there, the perception of the thing is far more impressive than the reality of it. A new report issued last week revealed that Americans are shedding their support for the barbaric punishment, but more troublesome is our misunderstanding of its application and fairness.

In other words, we don’t think it’s racist or applied in an arbitrary or unfair manner. Which, you know…ask Ronald Phillips. Ronald Phillips, who the State of Ohio is so desperate to murder that they will literally try anything to kill him. And, if this guy at Slate has his way, “anything” would include the guillotine. I swear. I know it’s the Slate. But still. C’mon.

Or would you have more faith when you learn that a San Diego judge was “exiled to traffic court” after several Superior Court rulings favoring defendants’ constitutional rights”. As Will Baude writes at Volokh, Judge Kreep2, an avid “birther”, decided to issue rulings upholding the Fourth Amendment rights of defendants. Naturally, prosecutors who are citizens who aren’t ever going to be in real danger of having their Fourth Amendment rights violated, boycotted the judge – a practice that is not new to the prosecutors in San Diego, having boycotted another judge in 2009.

Because the last thing we as Americans should want is a fair and impartial justice system where prosecutors aren’t whiny bitches when they lose a case once in a fucking generation. Not bitter at all.

Speaking of prosecutors losing, no Blawg Review worth its salt will fail to mention the monumental victory of one of our own, The Texas Tornado Mark W “the other” Bennett in the Texas Supreme Court of Criminal Appeals. In a case Mark handled on appeal, the ridiculously conservative Texas court held unanimously that a criminal statute was unconstitutional because it violated the First Amendment.

Bennett has since been on a roll, identifying other statutes susceptible to doom and Grits for Breakfast has this delightful post chronicling the apoplexy exhibited by prosecutors on their forum.

And since there is never going to be a better note to end on, I shall end. The next post in the Blawg Review chain is at Likelihood of Confusion. Don’t forget to check out all the posts at Blawg Review.

Goodbye, Ed.

Not my town-itis: Norwich, CT edition

It seems, does it not, that sex offender hysteria has died down a bit? The outrageous calls for inhumane residency restrictions seem to have abated1. Except CT. You see, Connecticut never did succumb to the grip of the madness, relentless rejecting calls for residency restrictions2. But we’re not to be outdone, because if there’s anything that CT is good at, it’s doing things late.

So after the town of Montville got its panties in a bunch in 2010 over a sex offender treatment house that was scheduled to open3, there really hasn’t been much noise here about this.

Enter Norwalk, New London, Norwich, CT. I’m telling you this news article reads like a cut and paste job from many similar news articles years ago. First, you have the children:

Norwich residents are concerned about the number of sex offenders in town, several of which are concentrated in a neighborhood full of children and teens.

What’s concentrated, you ask? They’re hoping you’ve stopped paying attention after that first sentence and are now fuming in your living room, hurling obscenities at Obama, liberals and the Devil:

According to police, four of the city’s 75 registered sex offenders live on a stretch of Central Avenue, which borders a park in the Greeneville section of town.

Sound of record scratching from 80s sitcoms.

Four. Out of Seventy-Five. Live on a “stretch” of road which “borders” a park. Cue quote from parent:

“I’m appalled,” said Norwich resident Melanie Silva. “I’m a parent of four. This playground here is a hub for teenage and young children.”

Oh man, Silva is appalled. I bet some perp showed her his penis or something:

Silva said she hasn’t had any direct contact with the sex offenders, and neither has her personal trainer, Jessica Doubleday, who opened a studio in a garage facing the park.

At this point, any self-respecting journalist would walk away after rolling her eyes and mouthing, “get the f*ck out”. But, of course, this is Connecticut journalism we’re talking about, so strap in.

But this park is apparently the arboreal embodiment of the bogeyman:

“There’s no lighting in this playground, there’s no bathrooms in this playground, and there’s people walking around with open-bottled liquor and there’s people walking around that are selling drugs, and it’s very obvious,” she said.

And then failed to explain just what, exactly, was so “very obvious”, because I have no clue what she’s talking about or – more importantly and here I’m bringing this lesson back, kids – what the motherloving hell this has to do with sex offenders.

“With that many people around that are sex offenders, you never know when something is gonna happen,” she said.

Nope. Still no clue what she’s referring to. Because, Ms. Silva and Doubleday. Let me let you in on a secret. Come closer. Closer still. I’ll whisper in your ear:

There are sex offenders among us. Every day. You see them. They see you! BOO! Happy Hallooween.

But no faux outrage story in Connecticut would be complete with a legislator trying to re-reinvent the wheel:

Norwich officials met Monday with State Sen. Cathy Osten of Sprague, who is pushing for reform and hopes to to develop proposals by late winter.

“We will be looking at the rules revolving around parole and probation to see what we can impact there,” said Osten.

“Many of the sex offenders that are identified are not controlled by the state any longer.”

Osten said some are beyond probation or parole and are living with family or on their own. She said she also wants to see more information reported on the state police website regarding the sex offenders’ crimes.

Forget a sex offender registry. I want a dumb legislator registry. An independently maintained list of idiotic comments by our elected officials, so I know whom to avoid the next time I’m at the legislature.