Thursday, March 12, 2015

Ohio Supreme Court argues that the registry can be cruel and unusual punishment

From Nebraskans Unafraid, comes a link to a video of arguments in the Ohio Supreme Court about whether a young man convicted of a sex offense could be excluded from the sex offender registry.

He was 21 when he had consensual sex with a 15-year-old girl. His public defender argued that a psychologist had found that he is "not a sex offender" and so should not be required to register. The psychologist had evaluated him using the Static 99, a checklist that purports to show recidivism risk. It is not a psychological evaluation.

The Court clarified with her that he is a sex offender because the law and his conviction are what make him a sex offender, not his psychological condition nor his recidivism risk no matter the level.

The Court gently nudged the attorney along the way to saying that the registry would be cruel and unusual punishment. The Ohio Supreme Court had already found that the registry is punitive in nature, so arguing whether the punishment of being on the registry is proportionate is a natural question.

When the prosecutor blithely said that the young man does deserve to be on the registry for having sex with a 15 year-old, the justices asked him to explain why the registry should not be considered cruel and unusual punishment. His answer? There are cases of worse punishment that the courts have said are not cruel and unusual. 

That's like telling a kid to eat his peas even if he doesn't like them because the kids down the street have to eat brussel sprouts which taste even worse.

Strange arguments from a public defender who seemed unclear about what a sex offender is (hint: it is not something discovered by a psychologist) and strange arguments from the prosecutor who said the young man should be on the registry because, well, because the law says he should. 

Watch the video, though, and you'll be encouraged by the questions and reasoning followed by the Ohio Supreme Court justices.

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