PROTECT THE CHILDREN OR THE PEDOPHILES
Megan Kanka was an innocent little girl, someones daughter, sister, and best friend. The defendant, Jesse Timmendequas, changed all of that. He changed it brutally, savagely, and permanently. In a few moments of unspeakable horror, the defendant destroyed all of Megans dreams, all of that joy, all that hope, all that promise. In those few moments, he destroyed Megan Kankas life. She would never live to see her wedding day, never have children, and never embrace her family again. Jesse Timmendequas took Megans life on July 24, 1994. Her funeral was held on Wednesday, August 3, 1994.
Jesse Timmendequas was a twice convicted sex offender. He moved in across the street from Megans home without the familys knowledge of his history as a pedophile. Joseph Cifelli was another convicted sex offender who had spent nine years at the Adult Diagnostic and Treatment Center. He had been convicted after admitting to repeated sexual abuse of a relative that had begun when the child was nine. A third man, Brian R. Jenin had been convicted twice of crimes involving young boys. Jenin, along with Timmendequas, was under investigation in connection with the unsolved murders of two boys in San Diego. All three were Megan’s neighbors.
Jesse Timmendequas convictions stemmed from a 1981 attack on a 5 year old girl, for which he served 9 months. That same year he was convicted for an attempted rape of a 7 year old girl, for which he was sentenced to ten years. After serving only six years, he was free to lure 7 year old Megan into his home where he brutally raped and strangling her with a belt as she bit and fought for life. He knocked her to the floor, hitting her several times in the head. He wrapped her head in plastic shopping bags to prevent her blood from staining the rugs. He then took a toy box and stuffed her inside. Megans body was found in a weeded area of a nearby park near a portable toilet.
On May 30, 1997, a jury returned a guilty verdict on all counts of murder including capital murder, kidnapping, and aggravated sexual assault and sentenced Jesse Timmendequas to death.
It was this little girls brutal death that prompted her parents, Richard and Maureen Kanka, to fight for broad based community notification. Megans parents believe that if they had known that a pedophile lived nearby, this heinous crime would never have happened.
The legislation requires that a community be notified if a convicted sexual offender is in its presence. In May 1996, President Clinton signed Megans Law, requiring that all states implement their own version of a sex offender registration and community notification programs.
The 1994 Jacob Wetterling Crimes Against Children and Sex Offender Registration Act had previously required the States to register individuals convicted of sex crimes against children. Megans Law added to this Act by requiring that upon release from custody, sexual offenders must register with the police department where they intend to live. Megan’s Law asserts that the danger of sex offender recidivism “requires a system of registration that will permit law enforcement officials to identify and alert the public when necessary for the public safety.” Advocates believe that alerting a community about a sex offender living in their neighborhood will help prevent further cases of sexual assault.
New Hampshires version of Megans Law requires convicted felons to report their address at least once per year or whenever their address changes, for the rest of their lives. Those convicted of misdemeanors are required to report their address changes for a period of ten years. The registry law first went into effect on January 1, 1994 and was retroactive to 1986.
Those opposed to Megans Law argue that sexual offenders constitutional rights are being violated and that community notification for sex offenders who have served their sentences violates constitutional guarantees against Ex Post Facto punishment and due process and that these rights are blatantly disregarded in the contents of Megan’s law.
An Ex Post Facto law is a law passed after the occurrence of an event or action which retrospectively changes the legal consequences of the event or action.
A law implicates the Ex Post Facto Clause only if it criminalizes conduct that was not a crime when it was committed, increases the punishment for a crime beyond what it was at the time the act was committed, or deprives a person of a defense available at the time the act was committed. Collins v. Youngblood, 497 U.S. 37, 42-43 (1990). Courts have held that legislation may lawfully impose new requirements on convicted persons if the statute’s ‘overall design and effect’ indicates a ‘non-punitive intent.’ United States v. Huss, 7 F.3d 1444, 1447 (9th Cir.’93).
The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit said sex offenders, like all criminals, forfeited their rights to privacy regarding their crimes. They are therefore not protected if the police collect and circulate information about their addresses, jobs, crimes, education, physical appearance, auto registrations, and license plate numbers. The key issue is whether or not the Act is punitive, because only punitive statutes implicate the Ex Post Facto Clause.
Throughout the U.S.’s history, its constitutions, statutes, and case law have provided standards for fair treatment of citizens by federal, state and local governments. These standards are known as due process. Due process is best defined in one word–fairness. When a person is treated unfairly by the government, including the courts, he is said to have been deprived of or denied due process.
The most common and successful due process challenge is procedural due process. This challenge has occurred mainly in states that classify offenders according to the level of risk they pose to communities. This argument centers on whether an offender is allowed a hearing to challenge a risk classification. The Massachusetts Supreme Court recently found that provisions of the states community notification law violated constitutional due process Doe v. Sex Offender Registry Board, Mass. SJC-07608 (July 24,1998).
The United States Supreme Court has yet to weigh in its opinion as to whether or not offenders due process or Ex Post Facto rights are being violated by Megans Law.
Are we bothered by the fact that in the current social climate, the rights of convicted pedophiles are routinely violated and nobody cares. Rules of evidence are stretched, and terms of punishment are increased. The danger of this precedent is impossible to ignore.
As parents, though… are we okay with it.
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