Jul
27

Jessica Lunsford And Hypocrisy

The rape and murder of nine-year-old Jessisa Lunsford in 2005 was a terrible thing. The fact that her attacker was a violent sexual predator with a past reinforces our fear that the world is filled with dangerous sexual predators. But the fact remains that most people accused of sex offenses are harmless, and do not deserve to be treated like quarantined beasts. Jessica Lunsford's father knows this. He knows it because he might just be a sex offender himself; his son certainly is, at least by standards of current law.

Question? Why were lawmakers so quick to pass Jessica's law, demonizing people without distinction on the urging of a man who had deleted images of child pornography in his own computer the day his daughter went missing in Homasse, Florida in 2005? Why wasn't John Lunsford charged? Why wasn't his 18-year-old son required to register as a sex offender several years later when he pleaded guilty to sexual contact with a minor? Why, finally, the double standards?

Don't get me wrong: I don't think that possession of pornographic images on a computer makes a person a sex offender or a danger to society. If Mark Lunsford had such images in his possession the day his daughter was kidnapped, raped and murdered that should not make Lunsford a criminal.

But the prisons are filled with men who did no more than Jessica's father did. Why are those men in prison? Why are they required to register as sex offenders on release and to be forced into substandard housing, labelled a public health menace and then prosecuted for technical violations of the law?

One reason that sex offender laws have become undiscriminating and driven by hysteria is our tendency to make rock stars of rage out of the surviving members of the family of a violent crime. When Jessica became one of those rare children who are abducted by a stranger, all of our hearts went out to the family. But rather than sequester Mr. Lunsford away and offer him the counseling he needed to cope with shattering grief, we opened the airwaves and legislative chambers to him. We permitted him to make a poster child of Jessica, and politicians piled on to ramp up laws that are already far too draconian.

Why aren't lawmakers extending similar attention to other men who had child pornography in their computers? They are victimized too?

 I blame Oprah, frankly. Panic and sympathy sell. We gave Mr. Lunsford a pass because of what he has lost. It is no wonder that victims of the current sex offender hysteria are outraged at the hypocrisy. Mark Lunsford is permitted to stir the demons lurking in other people's homes without being held accountable for the demons in his own computer. See: child porn on the computer the day she went missing?

It gets worse, of course. Joshua Lunsford, Mark's son and Jessica's brother, was eighteen when he was charged with felony sex assault of a minor. He was permitted to plea to a misdemeanor. He spent 10 days in jail and was not required to register as a sex offender. Our prisons are filled with men serving prison sentences measured in far longer terms for the same offense. Why did Joshua catch a pass?

Once again, don't mistake me. I don't think Joshua should have gone to jail at all or been required to register as a sex offender. My understanding his contact with a 14 year old was consensual. For many years in the United States the ages of consent for sexual contact was far lower than fourteen. Romeo wasn't a felon when he wooed Juliet.

But the Lunsford's ought not to be given a libidinal past because of Jessica's murder. When Joshua turned up at his own sentencing wearing a T-shirt with Jessica's picture on it, where was his father to insist that son not engage in such tasteless theatrics? And why did Clark County Ohio Judge Tomas Trempe give this boy a slap on the wrist while presumably hammering others?

Jessica Lunsford has been used by politicians pandering to frightened voters to increase monitoring of those on sex offender lists and to increase mandatory minimum sentences. But it turns out that Jessica's family knows more truths than one. Losing a child to a stranger is horrible, but not every person possessing child pornography, and not every Romeo in pursuit of a Juliet, are sex offenders. If the Lunsford's believed that, father and son would be registered now, and their neighbors warned that predators are in their midst.

Why Fox News called upon Mr. Lunsford to serve as a spokesman for ramped up sex offender news suggests that the network is using Jessica too. To what end?, I ask. Perhaps it's high time to stop sanctifying the rage of crime victims. We say that no one can be a judge in their own case. But let a child get murdered, and grieved parents get a free pass: they get to sublimate their rage into national fame. Just ask John Walsh, who, decades after his son went missing, still hosts a national television show.

There is something sick about a society that tolerates such rank hypocrisy and hysteria. The illness isn't caused by so-called sex offenders.
Comments (12)
Posted on August 26, 2010 at 11:03 pm by Anonymous
I think what everyone truly desires are laws that ...
I think what everyone truly desires are laws that will actually "protect the children". However, reality is the greater part of the current laws only protect the jobs of the people who prosecute these cases, and the prisons that depend on a full house to make money.
There are far too much technical vulnerabilities associated with the use of a computer and most importantly, the WORLD WIDE WEB. We are still viewing this issue with blinders on if we do not admit that there are many, many, ways that a person may not only land up with illegal material on his or her computer, but may inadvertently distribute or trade, advertise, or any number of action verbs they threw into the laws, and all without their knowledge.
A good amount of us may already have botnets controlling our computes and not be aware of all the material and data being transmitted without our knowledge. This is despite updated software protections. The fact is a person need not have viewed the illegal material to be charged with the same crime, and with the same intensity as the person actively seeking this material (or more).
What this country needs, as the good counselor has mentioned, is a more reasonable method of viewing and dealing with these "crimes".
An effective approach that is capable of identifying and removing the most dangerous and violent predators from our streets and which possibly be successful “at protecting the children".
Rather than allowing the current use of semantics, fear tactics into plea-bargaining, and smoke and mirrors to lead us to what is rapidly becoming mass incarceration; all in the name of creating the illusion that, we're doing something honorable and good. That is like building castles made of Paper Mache and plywood over a fault line. It is doomed to fail and to subsequently create more problems in its wake.

Posted on August 1, 2010 at 6:02 pm by Anonymous
Anonymous said to anonymous said july 31
I hope y...
Anonymous said to anonymous said july 31

I hope you live next door to a gang member that you don't know about because they don't need to register. Think then what can happen to your family when another gang comes driving by and thinks it is your house instead of your neighbors.
I am a mother of a registered sex offender I bet you think it is okay for people come and spray paint hate crimes on my house rocks thrown through my windows. My son does not even live with us.
Do you think that is right too. If you do I hope your kids never do a thing wrong because you may be the next one that vigilantes will get .

Posted on July 31, 2010 at 2:20 pm by Anonymous
You and all your supporters sound like perverts! ...
You and all your supporters sound like perverts! Only child molestors/pornagraphers would defend other child molestors/pornagraphers. I'm glad your friend will be an unemployable pariah when he gets out of jail. Tell him to take one for the team and do us all a favor and end his own life.

Posted on July 30, 2010 at 5:26 am by Anonymous
>>buying, selling or trading child porn supports a...
>>buying, selling or trading child porn supports a lifestyle, a business or an industry that performs patently illegal acts.<<

By the same argument, shopping at many or our national retailers should be illegal since they buy their products from third world countries where child labor and slavery run rampant.

My problem with child porn possession is the inequity of sentencing. I don't think the curious or those who are set up and entrapped through FBI stings should have to register as sex offenders. A teacher in Albany NY engaged in consensual sexual contact with several of her students and received a 6 month sentence; meanwhile, a friend of mine was arrested for porn possession and received ten years. He never touched a child where the teacher did. She, too, was in a position of trust and authority.

Then a police officer in Saratoga NY used his gun to force several women to have sex with him - he got six months AND he does NOT have to register as a sex offender on the grounds that he has a family to support.

When my friend gets out of prison in eight years, he will be unemployable. He will not be able to rent an apartment. His church will not even welcome him back. A productive, law abiding and stable life thrown out the window by our society who can't tolerate a single lapse in judgment. THAT is the crime.

Society protests too much, methinks.

Posted on July 29, 2010 at 10:58 pm by Anonymous
In the second paragraph you write:
Why wasn't Joh...
In the second paragraph you write:

Why wasn't John Lunsford charged?

Is that a typo. Should it not be Mark and not John. You don't have to post this comment.

Posted on July 29, 2010 at 2:11 pm by Ca Romeo and Juliet Law
Once again, a top-notch article! Thank you for bei...
Once again, a top-notch article! Thank you for being a voice of reason in a world of legalities gone awry.

The hypocrisy of the Lunsfords is a bitter pill to swallow for our family, as our youngest son is facing charges as a "Romeo" in a consensual boyfriend/girlfriend situation.

Not only will he face the injustice of the laws these folks created (if he receives mandatory sex offender registration), but he (as well as thousands of other young "Romeo's") receives the double-whammy of the hypocritical slap in the face from the judge and the Lunsfords themselves, due to their manipulation of the system.

Shame, shame.

Posted on July 29, 2010 at 12:19 pm by Equal Justice
I have no problem with anyone who wishes to walk a...
I have no problem with anyone who wishes to walk around their house naked, smoke a joint or two in the privacy of their home or otherwise enjoy their private freedoms as they see fit. No one else’s rights are violated.

And I agree that the government intrudes on our privacy and our lives and freedoms far too often.

But child porn fits into a completely different category. In order to possess child porn, someone had to make it. In order for it to have been made, a child or children had to be violated, humiliated, debased or abused. Therefore buying, selling or trading child porn supports a lifestyle, a business or an industry that performs patently illegal acts.

I kind of buy Norm’s assertion that someone may be just curious and should not be given the full measure of punishment that might be meted out to a serial offender and I might even buy the fact that not all who view kiddy porn are likely to molest children but it certainly does seem that every active child molester that gets snagged has a load of child porn on his computer.

I'm a libertarian and a first amendment guy but child porn... can't abide that.

Posted on July 29, 2010 at 8:43 am by Kelly Kornberger-Jozefowski
Norm - I attended the 2010 RSOL conference in D.C....
Norm - I attended the 2010 RSOL conference in D.C. and heard you speak. I was moved for the first time in a long time. Imagine - a lawyer with heart and dedication to each and every client!! You are truly a wonderful human being with common sense (which so many people lack these days). I enjoy reading your blog as I read what so many people believe but are afraid to voice in a public forum. Your courage is inspiring!! The sex offender laws currently on the books are in fact draconian and NEED to be changed!! And anyone who doesn't see it that way needs to stand up straight, remove their head from their ass and see things for what they really are! Because if we continue on this path, we'll all be the the registry!!!!

Posted on July 29, 2010 at 4:35 am by William Doriss
These comments send me back to my Webster's, again...
These comments send me back to my Webster's, again: '3 conformity to ideals of right human conduct'. Off the top of my head, that would seem to be the province of religion and not the province of the state. Is that not the reason we have 'separation of church and state'? Or, are those words as hollow as the 'presumption of innocence' has become when we enter the courthouse?

The possession by some one individual of 'child pornography' in the privacy of his home or office is no more harmful to me than the possession of marijuana or going naked in the privacy of his home or office. I may not like it, I may not choose to possess maryjane or go naked myself in my own home, but if someone else chooses to do it in the privacy of their home--without bothering anyone--why should that be a concern of mine, or of the state?

That argument is EXACTLY the reason why I am a card-carrying member of the Libertarian Party, and a supporter of Rand Paul. The Libertarian 'party' is the most legitimate--perhaps the only legitimate--party in the U.S. today, because it espouses and reflects the values of the true, the real and the original founding fathers, and not those Johnny-come-lately, self-styled, self-appointed effete corps of impudent arbiters of social and moral (whatever that is?) behavior who have forgotten their political roots and usurped illegitimately the legislative and judicial functions of the state. (Rep. Diana Urban, D, of CT comes to mind as an extreme example of what I'm talking about.)

Many of these poseurs have Esq. after their names, as we have rapidly become a nation of lawyers, attorneys, judges and probation officers in lieu of farmers, manufacturers, builders, inventors, teachers, professors, artists, dancers, actors, musicians and comedians.

In the final analysis, it is the lawyers, judges, attorneys, probation officers and LEOs who are the comedians. But this is NOT really funny, not in my book. And I don't want to pay to watch their pathetic performances or watch their movies in the legislative houses and in the courtrooms of Amerika.

It is when I enter the public domain that my behavior becomes a matter of social concern and public safety. We don't want people going naked or committing sex acts on the village green. We may apologize for those who chose to smoke a natural, organic weed for recreation purposes, but we don't want teenagers selling that very same weed in a bag on the street corners or New Haven. However, as Norm suggests, these activities which harm no living/breathing human being should be nothing other than 'misdemeanors',...and treated as misdemeanors, and not 'high crimes'.

As has been pointed out time and time again, the purpose of the Bill of Rights addendum to the Constitution was to protect the citizenry FROM the government. These are the principles that have been lost to prosecutors, judges and officials of the state in the latter part of 20th C. and early 21st C. Amerika. Are the human rights abuses here so different from those in Russia or China?

Saddam Hussein got more justice in Baghdad than I got at GA 23, New Haven where the judicial process is routinely mangled, manipulated misapplied--without oversight or accountability...and I don't mean 'maybe'. I don't think I'm alone.

I don't think so, and the current child porn and sex registration hysteria is a perfect example. This hysteria too will pass. Now that we've solved that, can we move onto something really important, like immigration law which I find very confusing, being that the U.S. has been a haven for the tired and weary for three hundred years.

Posted on July 28, 2010 at 6:45 pm by Lee Stonum
The murder analogy doesn't really do it for me bec...
The murder analogy doesn't really do it for me because I wouldn't want to criminalize someone possessing a movie in which an adult pretended to be a child (I don't buy that the existence of child porn or something that looks like it makes people more likely to act on it), but I would want to criminalize the possession of a movie depicting an actual murder.

I'm probably saying something hypocritical in terms of other things I've said, but I am not so against society legislating morality that I would argue the possession of such depictions is OK with me and should be legal.

I read a quote from Rand Paul in a magazine the other day in which he said crimes that do not involve violence should not be crimes. While I appreciate the sentiment, I'm not ready to take that giant leap into libertarianism. Perhaps I need to sit down and try to figure out a coherent reason why I think certain legislating of morality is ok and other is not, but I'm afraid all I'll come up with is that I care more about certain morals than others.

Posted on July 28, 2010 at 4:22 pm by Norm Pattis
Lee:
I am not sure about that. Certainly, mandato...
Lee:

I am not sure about that. Certainly, mandatory minimum sentences and mandatory sex offender registration are too much. Fact finders should have the right to assess risk.

In law school I argued against criminalization of child porn. Murder is against the law, yet we watch depictions of it daily. I don't think anyone really believes that murder movies create a market for death.

I concede that child porn is diffierent. There is no such thing as a child playing at porn. But neither do I believe that these laws meaningful deter production of this material. There still seems to be plenty.

So I will leave it at this: Make first possession a misdemeanor, and proceed on the basis of more serious consequences for repeat offenders. I have had too many young men charged with life-altering crimes merely for being curious.

N

Posted on July 28, 2010 at 3:52 pm by Lee Stonum
Its one thing to say that the penalties and regist...
Its one thing to say that the penalties and registration requirements are too harsh, but is your position that possession of child pornography should be entirely legal?
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About Norm Pattis

Norm Pattis is a Connecticut based trial lawyer focused on high stakes criminal cases and civil right violations. He is a veteran of more than 100 jury trials, many resulting in acquittals for people charged with serious crimes, multi-million dollar civil rights and discrimination verdicts, and scores of cases favorably settled.

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