The California Supreme Court continues to bludgeon registered citizens with decisions that deny their civil rights. In the latest in a string of misguided decisions, the Court stripped away another fundamental right – the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution – by deciding that individuals convicted of oral copulation with a minor should be required to register as a sex offender for life while individuals convicted of intercourse with a minor should not be required to register at all.
The Court’s reason for this decision is difficult for even a veteran court watcher to believe much less understand. That is, intercourse with a minor could result in the birth of a child who, in turn, must be supported by its father, a father who will not be able to get a job and pay child support if he is required to register as a sex offender.
What? The Court is now formally recognizing that an individual who is required to register as a sex offender won’t be able to get a job. Tell me it isn’t so!
Of course, it is true. It is also true, as the two dissenting justices point out, that anyone who is required to register is stigmatized and may not be able to find a place to live.
The majority of the court says its decision is justified based upon three factors: deterrence, preventing recidivism and protecting the public. But how can this be true when, according to state government reports, the rate of re-offense for registered citizens is 1.8 percent while on parole and about 3 percent overall? These essential facts are conveniently absent from the Court’s decision.
Also absent from the Court’s decision is the quality of integrity. In its place are myths that continue to be repeated. The principle myth, of course, is that “sex offender registration is not punishment”.
But what can we expect from a Court that decided in 2013 that the government can unilaterally change the terms of a plea bargain entered into by a registered citizen? For a state that requires virtually every sex offender since 1947 to register for life the consequences of that decision have been devastating. For example, a person convicted more than 50 years ago when the internet did not yet exist now has his name, photo, and home address published on a public website that subjects him to vigilante violence, even death.
Tell me it isn’t so. Then tell it to the relatives of Michael Dodele who was stabbed to death in his home, to Bobby Ray Rainwater who was decapitated while walking in a trailer park and to Donald Crisp who was shot to death in the driveway of his home.
There is a small glimmer of hope in this case. That is, the defendant’s attorney has requested a rehearing, which if granted would be conducted before two newly appointed liberal justices. If they were to agree with the two dissenting justices, a new majority could reverse this unfortunate decision which if left intact will punish hundreds if not thousands of individuals.
By Janice Bellucci