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  • 25 Mar 2017 9:00 PM | Administrator (Administrator)

    UPDATE: The Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act Reauthorization is legislation introduced again Feb 16, 2017 that will just make a failed system even more expensive and wasteful with no improvement to public safety. It will cause a decrease in public safety, and an increase in suffering to millions of children and family members. These children are already suffering because they have a parent or family member that can not earn a living because of the public registry of former sex offenders listing their home address. These children suffer because all of their potential friends know that they are off limits because school officials make sure that everyone knows that they have a parent on the public registry. These millions of children know all to well "The hateful and hurtful whispers of cruel former friends" (quoting Lauren Book). Even after they graduate from high school the stigma follows them they have great difficulty attending college due the the financial hardship and the stigma and hateful and hurtful whispers, etc, because of the family’s situation and even co-workers treat them differently because they know that their parent or family member is listed on that list of former sex offenders.. Across the United States with 844,000 citizens addresses listed on that public registry there is a loss of more than 20 billion dollars in income tax revenue because of their unemployability and a cost of more than 20 billion in public aid support of their family because their primary breadwinner can no longer find gainful employment. There are many millions of dollars spent on police efforts to keep the registries up to date and to harass the former offenders and to notify all of their neighbors every year and 4 times a year. Well over 40 billion dollars cost to taxpayers and after decades no decrease in the incidence of sex offences, no decrease on the rate of recidivism which has always been the lowest of any crime category at between 1% and 7% depending on which states were examined. And the extremely rare incidence of brutal rape and murder still remains constant at less than .001%, unaffected by the public listing of former sex offenders. With the current laws on the books it is more likely that your child will be put on the public list than that they would ever be touched by someone on the list. 95% of sex crimes are committed by first time offenders that are not on any list. Most likely, children will be sexualy offended by a close relative or by a public official such as a police officer or school teacher or other person who has been trusted. Of the 844,000 on the public registry, less than 5% will ever reoffend. These statistics are backed up by countless research reports from government agencies and scholars. A sample of those reports can be found herehere, and here

    Please join the action to stop legislation in it's tracks that would make our nations children more at risk.  Stop the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act Reauthorization of 2017, that would waste another $86 million dollars each year with no benefit to anyone other than those whose pockets it lines.  

    Oppose U S House bill  H.R. 1188   seen here

    July 27th, 2016 did mark the 35th anniversary of Adam Walsh's abduction and lawmakers wanted to pass this bill before then but failed. Now they have introduced another version of it in 2017. Contact your representatives directly and educate them about how damaging the Adam Walsh Act is. Then do the same for your senators who will most likely see this bill very soon.

    Don't accept lawmakers canned responses, demand their direct attention to this issue.

  • 27 Sep 2016 7:03 PM | Administrator (Administrator)


  • 23 Sep 2016 10:53 PM | Administrator (Administrator)

    A win in the 11th Circuit today! Miami-Dade is infamous for encampments of homeless registrants, permanent housing is very scarce because of residency restrictions. 

    Despite national media attention to bad laws that had people living under the Julia Tuttle Causeway--courts haven’t been much help. Now there’s an interesting development. 

    A lawsuit filed in Oct 2014 in federal court challenging those residency restrictions had been dismissed. However, today a federal appeals court *reversed* that dismissal and sent it back to the original court for further proceedings. 

    Below is the court’s ruling, also a 2014 Miami Herald story for background. 

    Congrats to John Doe #1, John Doe #2, John Doe #3 and Florida Action Committee. In addition to the ACLU’s Florida affiliate, this lawsuit is getting help from the ACLU’s national criminal justice project based in NYC. –Bill Dobbs

    Doe v Miami-Dade

    US Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, 1:15-cv-23933

    Opinion and order filed Sept. 23, 2016

    Miami Herald | Oct. 23, 2014

    ACLU sues over rule on where sex offenders can live in Miami-Dade

    After years of being shuttled from one homeless location to another, sexual offenders in Miami-Dade got support from the ACLU Thursday, when the agency filed a federal lawsuit arguing against the county’s restrictive rules.


    Sex offenders gather in the Shorecrest area off 79th Street in 2012. They have since had to move because a park opened nearby. Walt Michot Miami Herald Staff


    For five years, Miami-Dade County’s sex offender law has sparked national headlines, as homeless parolees have been forced to move from street corners to parking lots because of a law that prohibits them from squatting near public spaces where children gather.

    Now, the dozens of homeless sex offenders — shuffled from under the Julia Tuttle Causeway to a Shorecrest street corner and finally to a parking lot near train tracks and warehouses just outside Hialeah — have a voice arguing on their behalf.

    On Thursday, the national chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit in federal court reasoning that Miami-Dade County and the state Department of Corrections have violated the offenders’ basic rights to personal safety, and to maintain a home.

    The suit doesn’t name the ACLU’s clients, referring to them as John Doe 1, 2 and 3.

    “It undermines public safety. It’s harder to find a job and maintain treatment. Housing stability is just as critical to these folks as to anyone else,” said Brandon Buskey, staff attorney for the Criminal Law Reform Project at the ACLU in New York City.

    But the man behind the controversial county ordinance said no one has the right to demand where they live. Ron Book, the powerhouse state lobbyist and chair of the Miami-Dade Homeless Trust, said the courts have upheld the residency restrictions, and the ACLU is simply regurgitating an issue that’s been dealt with.

    “The U.S. Supreme Court has said they’re entitled to live places that don’t endanger the health, safety and welfare of law-abiding citizens of the U.S. But they’re entitled to take their $350 to the courthouse,” Book said of the ACLU. “I don’t support those with sexual deviant behavior living in close proximity to where kids are.”

    The 22-page lawsuit, filed in the U.S. Court’s Southern District, calls the county ordinance vague, says it doesn’t allow sex offenders their due process, and adds that it leaves them in a vulnerable position and unsafe.

    “These individuals, who frequently subsist on meager incomes after being released from prison, are unable to locate stable, affordable housing in Miami-Dade County. This transience is primarily because the ordinance arbitrarily renders off-limits broad swaths of housing,” according to the complaint.

    Assistant County Attorney Gerald Sanchez said the county won't comment on pending litigation.

    At the center of the battle between the ACLU and Miami-Dade is a law approved in 2010 called the Lauren Book Safety Ordinance. Lauren Book, Ron Book’s daughter, was sexually molested by a trusted nanny for six years, starting when she was 11. Lauren Book-Lim, now married and 29, is an advocate for the sexually abused.

    The 2010 ordinance was created after nearly 100 offenders were sent scrambling from squalid living conditions under the Julia Tuttle Causeway. The new law doesn’t allow offenders on parole within 2,500 feet of schools, parks, bus stops, or any other place children might congregate. Before the law, Miami-Dade followed a less restrictive state-created 1,000-foot law.

    But the county ordinance had unintended consequences: It left sex offenders with few living options and almost immediately became a hot-button issue around the nation, even the world. There’s even a Wikipedia page about it.

    Miami-Dade’s sexual offender homelessness issue first came to light in late 2009, when images of 92 homeless sex offenders living in plywood and cardboard sleeping quarters tucked under the Julia Tuttle Causeway at the height of the recession were splashed across TV.

    At the time, the county was still following the 1,000-foot state law.

    Though the homeless offenders had been living there for about three years, embarrassed officials put up “No Trespassing” signs under one of the main causeways linking Miami and Miami Beach, and tore down the rickety structures. A promise to spend $1 million to find housing for the offenders didn’t solve the problem.

    The new, tougher, 2,500-foot ordinance was created mainly because of the Julia Tuttle fiasco.

    By 2012, another group of a few dozen showed up at a street corner in Shorecrest, a tiny residential and commercial neighborhood in Miami’s northeast corner. They slept on sidewalks and a median just off busy 79th Street.

    That was until Miami Commissioner Marc Sarnoff opened Little River Pocket Park a couple months later, on a piece of barren city-owned land between some homes that at the time was filled with rusted toys and a metal carport frame. The park was only a few hundred feet from where the offenders called home.

    They had to leave again.

    Then in the summer of 2013, 54 offenders were ushered out of a trailer park on the outskirts of Allapattah. This time they were living too close to a school for troubled kids called The Miami Bridge Youth and Family Services.

    State correction officials said they were unaware the facility was even considered a school when they first ushered the offenders to the trailer park.

    So off the offenders went again, this time to a Hialeah-area parking lot at Northwest 71st Street and 36th Court, surrounded by warehouses and train tracks.

    There are no bathrooms and there is no electricity. Many sleep without a roof over their heads. Others sleep in cars or in makeshift tents, defecating in a field nearby.

    Howard Simon, executive director of the Florida chapter of the ACLU said no entity should be allowed to strip anyone of their basic rights and force them into “dangerous and squalid conditions.”

    “This is the second chapter of the same sad story,” he said. “The county provoked international outrage when it forced people to live under the Julia Tuttle bridge. Now it’s forcing people to live alongside railroad tracks.”

  • 09 Sep 2016 8:38 PM | Administrator (Administrator)

    Forward From:

    To: ALL


    We are reaching out to all and affiliates to respond the recent State Department notice on implementation of the unique identifier provision of IML.


    It was signed by: 

    Bureau of Councilor Affairs   

    Sen   Senior Advisor David T Donahue 6826     202-647-9584


    We request emails, faxes, phone calls etc be sent to the attached individuals to protest this implementation


    In ones own words, but the general talking points are as follows:


    "I (we) protest the State Department's implementation of International Megans Law (IML) and the specific provision for a unique identifier on American Citizen's passports. The notification provisions and the Passport Identifier marking the passport holder as a registered sex offender puts the lives of American citizens and their families in danger when traveling to foreign countries. As such, those Americans will be designated (by their own government) as unworthy of the protections afforded U.S. Citizens and invite abuses at the hands of foreign governments. So too will their families who accompany them be subjected to mistreatment by foreign governments whose standards may fall below those of the U.S. Reports already confirm American citizens and families have been harassed, threatened, items stolen, and travel plans destroyed by the current Angel Watch alert system.


    The passport mark will further identify the holder as a former offender to any who require passports in commerce, such as hotels and banks, who may also use this information as a means to extort or threaten the passport holder.


    Neither the notification or the passport mark will serve any role in curbing or curtailing child sexual exploitation as has been noted by leading experts. Instead, it will stifle legitimate travel, split families apart and prevent lawful international business activities.


    Statistics indicate, not only a low rate of re offense for former offenders, but that offenses are overwhelming committed by those not on sex offender registries."


    Please send protest emails, fax and phone calls to :


    U.S. Department of State, Office of Civil Rights (S/OCR)


    Tel: (202) 647-9295 or (202) 647-9294  Fax: (202) 647-4969



    Deputy Assistant Secretary for Passport Services (CA/PPT)

    Deputy Assistant Secretary Brenda Sprague 6826  202-647-9584

    Special Assistant Dan Pauly SA-17A 4th FL  202-485-6374

    Staff Assistant Zlatko Pasalic SA-17A 4th FL  202-485-6387

    Managing Director, Issuance Operations Florence G. Fultz SA-17A 4th FL  202-485-6379

    Director, Office of Management Analysis and Coordination William Wood SA-17A 4th FL  202-485-6386

    Senior Advisor for International Affairs R. Michael Holly SA-17A 4th FL  202-485-6377

    Managing Director, Support Operations Barry J. Conway SA-17A 4th FL  202-485-6372

    Director, Office of Program Management and Operational Support Aileen D Smith SA-17A 4th FL  202-485-6547

    Acting Director, Office of Planning and Program Support Winnie Fuentes SA-17A 4th FL  202-485-6604

    Director, Office of Adjudication Don Simpkins SA-17A 4th FL  202-485-6611

    Director, Office of Passport Integrity and Internal Controls Kelly Ozolek-Cella SA-17A 4th FL  202-485-6649

    Director, Office of Acceptance Facility Oversight Carmen Marrero SA-17A 4th FL  202-485-6515

    Director, Office of Technical Operations Amanda Jones SA-17A  202-485-6511

    Director, Office of Passport Legal Affairs and Law Enforcement Liaison Jonathan Rolbin SA-17A 4th FL  202-485-6590

    Staff Assistant Sara E Phillips SA-17 4th Floor  202-485-6388

    Staff Assistant Carlos M Santamaria SA-17 4th Floor  202-485-6389


    Congressional Passport Supervisor Patience Tait SA-17A, Suite 3.200  202-485-8226

    Director, Office of Passport Integrity and Internal Controls Kelly Ozolek-Cella SA-17A 4th FL  202-485-6649


    Director, Office of Passport Legal Affairs and Law Enforcement Liaison Jonathan Rolbin SA-17A 4th FL


    Bureau of Councilor Affairs   

    Sen   Senior Advisor David T Donahue 6826     202-647-9584



    Tweet John Kerry at @JohnKerry


    Contact congress with this link:


    State Department Phone Directory

  • 30 Aug 2016 8:05 AM | Administrator (Administrator)

    portmanteau:   port·man·teau    ˌpôrtˈman(t)ō/    noun

    Consisting of or combining two or more separable aspects or qualities.

    Ascendant:   as·cend·ant   əˈsendənt   adjective

    Rising in power or influence.


    Portmanteau Ascendant: 

    Post-Release Regulations and Sex Offender Recidivism

    J.J. Prescott 

    University of Michigan Law School

    May 2016

    Connecticut Law Review, Vol. 48, No. 4, 2016


    The purported purpose of sex offender post-release regulations (e.g., community notification and residency restrictions) is the reduction of sex offender recidivism. On their face, these laws seem well-designed and likely to be effective. A simple economic framework of offender behavior can be used to formalize these basic intuitions: in essence, post-release regulations either increase the probability of detection or increase the immediate cost of engaging in the prohibited activity (or both), and so should reduce the likelihood of criminal behavior. These laws aim to incapacitate people outside of prison. Yet, empirical researchers to date have found essentially no reliable evidence that these laws work to reduce sex offender recidivism (despite years and years of effort), and some evidence (and plenty of expert sentiment) suggests that these laws may increase sex offender recidivism. In this Article, I develop a more comprehensive economic model of criminal behavior — or, rather, I present a simple, but complete model — that clarifies that these laws have at best a theoretically ambiguous effect on recidivism levels. First, I argue that the conditions that must hold for these laws to increase the legal and physical costs of returning to sex crime are difficult to satisfy. There are simply too many necessary conditions, some of which are at odds with others. Second, I contend that even when these conditions hold, our intuitions mislead us in this domain by ignoring a critical aspect of criminal deterrence: to be deterred, potential offenders must have something to lose. I conclude that post-release laws are much more likely to succeed if they are combined with robust reintegration efforts to give previously convicted sex offenders a stake in society, and therefore, in eschewing future criminal activity.

    Number of Pages in PDF File: 44

    Keywords: Sex Offender Laws, Deterrence, Recidivism, Registration, Notification, Portmanteau, Becker, Criminal Law, Residency Restrictions


  • 14 Aug 2016 10:31 AM | Administrator (Administrator)

    On July 27, 1981, six-year old Adam Walsh vanished from a Hollywood, Florida shopping mall. His mother, Reve Walsh, left him unattended for several minutes, and when she returned, he was gone. Two weeks later, Adam’s severed head was found in a canal, and to this day, the rest of his body has never been recovered.

     John Walsh, Adam’s father, went on to champion unsolved crimes in his America’s Most Wanted television program, using his son’s loss as the impetus for his campaign. In 2008, Ottis Toole, a serial killer who died in 1996, was recognized as the man behind the grisly murder.

    This is the story we know well, but, everything may not be what it seems. True-crime author Arthur Jay Harris has been following the Adam Walsh case almost since its inception, and he first challenged police’s official statements when he posited that Jeffrey Dahmer, and not Toole, was the likely culprit for the crime. Harris’ evidence included seven witnesses that saw Dahmer at the mall around the time of the disappearance, along with a police report that stated that the infamous killer was living and working a mere 20 minutes away from the Hollywood mall where Adam was abducted from.

    Indeed, if you follow Harris’ work with ABC and The Miami Herald, you too may come to the conclusion that police fingered the wrong man. But, that’s not where Harris’ story and investigation ends. As Harris posits in The Unsolved Murder of Adam Walsh, which has turned into a two-book series, Adam Walsh may not have been murdered after all.

    What was your conclusion after years of research into the Adam Walsh murder?

    After shaking out what police and the medical examiners, and yes, the Walsh family, and the news media have put out about this case, there is only one takeaway that remains true: Adam Walsh disappeared. Everything else you think you know about this case is either absolutely untrue or is so unlikely that it’s essentially untrue.

    In short, the evidence against Ottis Toole, who police blamed for Adam’s murder, is between poor and none. Another police suspect, who they dismissed with little inquiry — no less than Jeffrey Dahmer, who at the time was documented living no more than 20 minutes by vehicle from the mall, is a far more likely suspect. Dahmer: 11 severed heads. Adam: severed head. That and seven police witnesses who said they saw Dahmer at the mall at the time with or near Adam, plus Dahmer’s access to the same type and color of van reported by mall witnesses as the getaway vehicle, and a comparison including Dahmer’s mugshot to a police composite drawing from a stunningly similar attempted kidnapping of a child at a nearby location of the same chain store exactly two weeks earlier.

    - picture -

    But I made most of that case years ago, and my evidence was widely reported. What’s new in the case, and no less outrageous, is this: The dead child they said was Adam is overwhelmingly likely not him. And the only reason we could possibly know this is because when police closed the case investigation in 2008, 27 years after the murder, all the official agency case files finally became available, for the asking. Conclusive certainties in homicide cases are startlingly few and I don’t leap to them. But this is certain: In the now nearly 35 years since the homicide, there never could have been a trial, and never will be a trial, against any defendant for the murder of Adam Walsh. That’s not for lack of suspects; it’s because the identification of the found child as Adam can never be proven in court.

    Does the lack of a provable ID suggest that Adam wasn’t murdered? Why wasn’t the murdered child verified as Adam?

    The medical examiner who made the ID announced it quickly after the child was found, as if it wasn’t much of a disputed issue. It was based on a comparison of Adam’s dental chart, showing a molar with a filling on the cheek side, to the mouth of the found child. That and a visual ID at the morgue by a family friend of the Walshes. Remember, there was no torso so there were no fingerprints, and in 1981 forensic DNA matching wasn’t available. Here’s what should be in the medical examiner’s files: A copy of Adam’s dental chart; Adam’s dental X-rays and X-rays of the mouth of the found child; a forensic dental consultation report, affirming the ID; and a completed, signed autopsy report narrative, since an autopsy was performed. Here’s what’s in the Adam Walsh case medical examiner’s office files: None of that.

    Nor is any of it in any other agency’s investigative files. I confirmed that by getting all the files through public records requests, interviews with or questions to heads of all the appropriate agencies, and then a written report of an investigation I requested from the Florida Medical Examiners Commission, a division of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Adam’s dentist didn’t keep any of Adam’s records, either.

    - picture -

    As it turns out, the X-rays, for comparison, are the most significant pieces of evidence missing. I found all the forensic dentists who were working in South Florida in 1981 and were available to do a consultation, or were already under contract with regional M.E.’s offices. All told me they hadn’t been asked, and until I spoke to them had no idea there might have been an issue with the Walsh ID. Both the found child and Adam had a filling in a lower left molar on the buccal, or cheek, side. But it turns out that’s one of the most common places for children to get cavities. Think of how a kid chews gum, or eats candy, and for a moment keeps from swallowing it by putting it between his teeth and cheek. Medical examiners I spoke to said that match was good enough for only a “presumptive ID,” not a “positive ID.” Dental chart matches more often work for adults, who generally have had lots of dental work. Adam only had that one filling, according to what the M.E. who made the ID wrote.

    Rather, dental X-rays would have been definitive. A comparison would look at the size, shape, and placement of the filling. But there is no note in the files that Adam’s dental X-rays were even requested. When I asked pediatric dentists whether a 6-year-old, especially who had a filling, would have had X-rays in his file, they said most likely yes.

    What about the autopsy report? Why isn’t that there?

    State law requires one to be written within 90 days of the autopsy, unless the M.E. is waiting for something like an outside lab report. A cover sheet in the Walsh file shows that an autopsy was done, by whom, when, and where. But, what’s not in the file are the narrative findings — the guts of the report, including a signature.  Did maybe that M.E., Dr. Wright, keep his own copy? It was only the biggest murder case in the county’s history. When I reached him, as soon as I said why I was calling, he hung up on me, nor did he pick up when I called him back or emailed him. Later, when I was working on the story with a reporter from The Miami Herald, I had him call. Here’s the quote we got: “Hmmmm.” That’s it.

    - picture -

    But, I later figured out how to get him on the record. I made another public records request to the Broward M.E. Since the autopsy report had become a public record and they hadn’t been able to supply it to me, I quoted a state statute saying that upon request and if they could find it, they were obliged to restore the document to their file and then provide me a copy. Maybe Dr. Wright would respond to them?  The then-current Chief Broward M.E. wasn’t thrilled at this idea, but after he checked with the County Attorney, he emailed Dr. Wright, who did respond to him. This is what I got after another public records request to the Broward M.E.:

    - picture -

    The remains were found 125 miles north of Hollywood, and were brought to the nearest morgue, in Vero Beach. Vero Beach was still a small town in 1981: The morgue didn’t have a forensic pathologist, trained in autopsies, just a clinical pathologist trained in examining tissue. So when they needed to, the office had an arrangement to send cases to Fort Lauderdale, where Dr. Wright was a big city, well-experienced forensic pathologist. But while the Vero Beach M.E. still had the remains, he did an external examination and wrote about it in a document he titled “Preliminary Autopsy Examination.”

    State law is clear on this: an autopsy is defined as a dissection. The Vero Beach M.E. did not cut the body; Dr. Wright did that. That is called an internal examination, and Wright reviewed his findings from that, verbally at least, with the lead detective in the Walsh case, whose notes of their conversation were in the police case file. In addition, the press reported that Dr. Wright performed the autopsy. The state Medical Examiners Commission published guidelines say that the pathologist who dissects the body is responsible for writing the autopsy report. When the MEC investigator agreed with me that there was no report in this case, he said it was too late to consider disciplining Dr. Wright because he was no longer a medical examiner’s office employee.

    How did they lose the dental chart?

    Adam’s dentist’s office gave it to a Hollywood Police lieutenant who brought it to the Vero Beach Medical Examiner (M.E.), who made and announced the ID. That M.E. told me he filed the document and sent a copy to the Broward M.E. But, the dental chart is missing from all three files. How accidental is that?

    This is an outline of what I think may have happened: the Vero Beach M.E., a small-town pathologist not equipped to deal with a situation like this, who admitted to me he wasn’t a dental expert, was under tremendous pressure to make the ID. The found child was of similar age to Adam. All the police present who had seen the remains the evening before and overnight were saying they were something like 99 percent sure it was Adam. Of course, none of them had ever met Adam.

    Adam had been missing two weeks, and the search for him had consumed the Hollywood Police Department, whose detectives had been working on it up to 90 hours a week. Plus the Walshes, desperately and effectively, had kept the story at the top of the news for all that time. The collateral damage was that the city got crazy over this, not improperly. So I categorize the Vero Beach M.E.’s positive identification as merely a royal screw-up. If there’s a cover-up, to include the loss of or non-gathering of all those usual identification documents and evidence, I think it came after, when somebody must have realized the positive ID was made too hastily. They might have publicly walked it back, but nobody did that.

    The other part is, in my mind, at some early point, the full official records in this case were never intended to see the light of day. That would have been easy enough to maintain; under Florida public records law, all police records are public — unless a case is under “active investigation.” In 1994, a terrific reporter named Jay Grelen challenged Hollywood that the Walsh case, then 13 years without an arrest, wasn’t being actively investigated. (John Walsh did not express the same opinion of Grelen.) In 1996, a Broward County judge agreed with Grelen, by then as co-plaintiff with local news media, and ordered police to make public their case files to that point. But afterward, police continued to insist they were actively investigating the case and continually refused, to me at least, to make public their newer files in the case.

    After the 1996 file dump, John Walsh went on a campaign to insist that Adam’s killer was Ottis Toole. He was all over TV and print.

    - video -

    By 2002, I realized the more-likely connection to Dahmer. After years of reporting, I broke the Dahmer-Adam story at the end of 2006, and in the summer of 2007, ABC Primetime worked with me further on the story.

    By the way, not only has John Walsh never spoken to me about my findings, he’s never spoken to anyone I’ve worked with on the story. After in 1997, I got a very loud cold shoulder from him for a magazine story I wrote, I’ve let my editors, producers, or co-reporters solicit comments from him, rather than me do it. In that way I’ve tried to keep a light footprint. Nor had he ever spoken to Jay Grelen, so I don’t think Walsh’s refusal was personal to me.

    (ED. NOTE: Uproxx reached out to John Walsh for comment, but we didn’t receive a response.)

    Isn’t it possible that the whole story of Adam is so awful that he and his family have simply tried to put it behind them?

    I refer to the opening of each new episode of John Walsh’s latest show, The Hunt, in which he introduces himself as the parent of a murdered child. On its website is a promotional video in which a card reads, “In 1981, John Walsh’s 6-year-old son, Adam, was kidnapped and murdered.” I also refer to a story you wrote about him in December 2014 in which he said in public, first reported by The Hollywood Reporter, “People don’t know this, but [police] kept Adam’s severed head in the morgue for 27 years, saying you can’t bury your child because it’s an open capital murder.” By the way, that’s not exactly true. According to notes in the Broward M.E. file, the family apparently got the remains in 2007, a full year before Hollywood Police announced that they closed the case.

    I say “apparently” because this is another problem in the Broward M.E. file. It’s morgue procedure to log out remains; usually if not always, the funeral home handling the body signs the log. But in the Adam Walsh case, there is no sign-out signature in either its case file or the office’s general sign-in/sign-out logbook. The current chief medical examiner himself checked that for me. And the remains are now gone, he said. I tried, through state offices in Florida and New York, and the two funeral homes cited in the case file notes, to find out what happened to the remains after they left the Broward M.E. I was not able to get any information. I don’t know where they are buried, (and) I don’t know if they were cremated.

    Although the transference of the remains, long by then just a skull, had been in the works for a while, it happened around when a new chief of Hollywood Police took office, which was also just after the ABC Primetime story airing. The new chief reached out to Walsh soon after, according to a letter he wrote that I got in a public records request, and then about a year later came the press conference that officially closed the case on Toole, who was dead and couldn’t therefore be prosecuted. I was at that press conference, but decided just to watch it. In my mind the exercise was in part to dispel the Dahmer theory and to embarrass me, as well as do something that John Walsh would appreciate. But it was actually a huge unexpected favor to me because at last all of the case files were now completely available. Immediately I found there were not just two police witnesses who said they’d seen Dahmer in the mall with or near Adam, but six, and then later, a seventh.

    But you also went to the Medical Examiner’s office file.

    Until then it hadn’t been a public record, either. And as it turned out, the nucleus of the story was there, not in the police file. When I first got there, I realized the absence of the autopsy report narrative, Adam’s dental chart, and a forensic dental report. I later came to realize the importance of the X-rays. Also on later, close analysis and with the help of other documents, I came to doubt whether Adam’s tooth with the filling was exactly the same molar as in the found child, for whom I was able to get tooth photos of. But the most striking problem was that the found child had what I call a buck tooth.

    - picture -

    You’ll remember that Adam, in his famous and last photo, was especially endearing because he had neither of his top front teeth. At 6, that’s age-appropriate. But I had to determine when that picture had been taken compared to when he disappeared. In his book Tears of Rage, published in 1997, John Walsh wrote:

    - picture -

    First, the kid had two little missing teeth.

    From the archive of the newspaper in Hollywood where I had worked long ago, I got a scan of the original photo of Adam that the Walshes had given them on the day he disappeared. The photo is also on the Internet, but the pixel quality from the original is much higher, so I could get a close up that looked this good:

    - picture -

    Researching it further, I came to doubt that the photo had been taken the week before: it was taken by a studio and maybe the Walshes had gotten their prints a week before. I think it might have been taken a month before. But I found the man who, when he was 9, had been best friends with Adam before he disappeared, and he told me that he’d last seen him a week or two before the disappearance, and he’d especially noticed that Adam still had neither top front tooth.

    The best last-seen-alive description of Adam is in a teletype Hollywood police sent to another police agency. It reads that Adam’s top left front tooth is “partially grown in.”

    - picture -

    A week, or not much more, before he disappeared, Adam had no top front teeth. Sometime after that, his top left front tooth apparently erupted. Two weeks after his disappearance, the found child, who had been dead for at least some time (the Broward M.E. told the press that it was possibly all two weeks) had a top left front tooth that was in “almost all the way,” in the judgment of a University of Florida forensic anthropologist I spoke to who had taken his own photos of the head as a skull for Hollywood Police years later.

    - picture -

    Could that work? Could a 6-year-old grow in a top front tooth nearly all the way in a week or not much more than that? I wanted to be definitive. I asked pediatric and forensic dentists and parents of kids who had passed that age. All of them said, most bluntly by one forensic dentist in Hollywood, “There’s no way in hell.”

    Didn’t the Walshes ever identify the found child?

    In Tears of Rage, Walsh wrote that he had never seen the remains:

    “My wife, Reve, and I did not make all of these sacrifices ourselves. There were others who helped carry the burden. We did not respond, for example, to the particular request that I am about to relate. We were spared little over the whole course of events. But we were saved from this, at least. The request was for someone close to us, a friend. A family member would have been ideal, but was judged, ultimately, to be unwise. And so a friend, one who knew us well, went instead.”

    The Walshes certainly weren’t at the Vero Beach morgue when the ID was made. They were in New York, where they had just appeared on Good Morning America to ask a national audience for help in looking for their missing son.

    It was in the overnight hours when police first called them, at their hotel, and said that a dead child had been found the evening before. They didn’t know it was Adam, but at least to themselves, they felt pretty sure. I spoke to the show producer who told me she immediately offered to return the couple to Florida on the first flight out, but John turned it down. I also spoke to the show host, David Hartman, who told me he’d later offered the same thing. Instead, they went on the show that morning; Mrs. Walsh looked catatonic and said nothing. On air, John said this:

    “Well, amongst many sightings and reported possible clues on Adam they have found the remains of a young person in Florida that at this time they are trying to identify whether it is Adam or not. At this point they feel there is a good possibility it is not Adam. Therefore they felt we should come on and carry the word of Adam to the public because there is a good likelihood that he is still out there with his abductors.”

    Three hours later came the word that it was. But John may have been right the whole time. Also in his book, Walsh wrote that his friend, John Monahan, who was at the morgue for them, did not immediately recognize the child as Adam. He made the ID only after he asked the M.E. to open the mouth and he saw a “small, emerging tooth.” This is elaborated on nowhere in the official files or in Walsh’s writing or interviews over the years.

    Do you have any idea, then, who the dead child is?

    No. None at all, and I searched through missing persons databases, but they aren’t very comprehensive for so long ago. Maybe this story will bring some leads. And maybe some hope for the family of that child. That will be hard, too, especially if there are leads to more than one child. And I want to say that I could be wrong that the child is not Adam. But I think the evidence shows I am much more than likely right.

    If I’m right, the net result of all this is that an incredibly awful child killer got away with this murder unprosecuted and never blamed; some family has never had resolution for the death of their child; the local police have not been much interested in this; the trusting public has been misled; and, therefore, the disappearance of the child whose born name was Adam Walsh has never been resolved.

    Do you have any reason to believe that Adam is actually alive?

    Yes. But, here my already dark story risks going into Bizarroville. My Book Two of The Unsolved Murder of Adam Walsh is all about my attempt to check the claim of a man who approached me now six years ago who said he was Adam Walsh — under a different name, of course, and grown up with a different family.

    After only a moment of pause, I felt compelled to speak to him. His story was beyond belief and I thought totally unprovable. To get rid of him with a clear conscience, and because it seemed easier, I tried to prove his story wrong. That’s when I went to the medical examiner’s office to check the specifics of the ID of the found child as Adam. I said that would prove him wrong. He said I would find a misidentification. What I discovered was there was no autopsy report or any of the other missing documentation. How could he have known there was a problem?

    I realized then I would need to spend some time on this. I did everything I could think of. I had a fortunate connection elsewhere in the story to the man who had been Adam’s best friend. This man who said he was Adam knew all sorts of specific things that only old friends can know about each other — and that he could not have gotten from the Internet or elsewhere. I basically said, “Sheesh!”

    Since you can’t say for sure he isn’t Adam, can you say for sure he is?

    No. And I tried.

    Has he ever spoken to the Walsh family?

    No. And he tried. He did meet with Hollywood Police, for maybe an hour. They were polite to him, but did nothing, wrote no report, took no saliva swabs for DNA, no fingerprints.

    Did you?

    Yes. To compare to his, I got scans of latent fingerprints police had lifted from Adam’s bedroom in 1981, but their original quality wasn’t very good. And I had Mrs. Walsh’s 22-years-later mitochondrial DNA test results to compare to, which I also got from police. Yes, 22 years after the declaration that the child was Adam Walsh, which had never been at least publicly disputed, there was a DNA test in part to determine whether it was so, and that test had never been made public until the Miami Herald reporter I was then working with and I realized it existed and we asked for it.

    The summary report said Mrs. Walsh’s sample results were “consistent with” DNA taken from a ground tooth from the found child. Except that, as the NFL refs say, upon further review, and with a lot of help from DNA experts, the call on the field needed to be overturned. Lab controls showed that those test results were contaminated and therefore had no comparative value whatsoever. In Book Two, I spent a whole chapter explaining all of that.

    One last point was that the money for the test came not from any local police agency, although they assisted with the collection of evidence. It was paid for from federal funds given to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which was originally created as the Adam Walsh Center. One of their founding board members, and still sitting, is — Mrs. Walsh.

    Now to you, personally. Why do this? Why spend so much effort on such an old case? The Walshes seem satisfied with the conclusion, even if flawed. Both Dahmer and Toole are dead and can’t be prosecuted.

    Because ultimately it’s not about the Walsh family, or Jeffrey Dahmer or Ottis Toole. Or even a conviction. In all of my books and other crime journalism, I’m fascinated by seeing the process of how cases get resolved — or not. In the past few years, so much cellphone video of police shootings has tended to disagree with police-written narratives of the same events. Pictures may be worth a thousand words, but my books are a hundred thousand words, illustrating as large a picture as I can present from resources I can obtain.

    All of my stories go deep, and they all reveal serious errors in police investigations. They’re easy to hide — who does the kind of work I do, not paid by any party to the case? I found in these cases that police come to early conclusions and despite later evidence, just don’t change their presumptions. As for me, I continually challenge what I thought I knew, to whatever point, and think, have I been wrong? Not to mention, how did I miss that until now? I can do that because I’m not paid to have cognitive dissonance, to make sure that all the evidence points in one direction and not another. I have no interest in forcing the evidence, just to collect all that I can.

    I’m not anti-cop, pro-victim, pro-defense, any ideology like that. I just want to see resolutions that closely match the facts. I start with law enforcement’s facts, from their records, then I do my own investigation. I’m not former police, not an attorney, not a former crime victim, not even particularly a mystery reader fan, though my mom was. I’m just a pretty inquisitive journalist, and to me, these are the best stories to write about.

    This story, as in all my others, kept leading in directions I couldn’t have anticipated. After a while you realize you’re following a path to something — when a story path speaks to you like this, you feel obliged to listen, to follow. It’s telling you where to go. It’s the rarest of all story experiences. You can’t just abandon the path before you’ve turned over every stone you can.

    These stories also make me more empathetic. If that child isn’t Adam Walsh, can you imagine being the family that’s been looking for their small child since 1981 or before? And if that man is actually Adam Walsh, and I think he is, can you imagine what it’s like being him? Short of losing your life or consciousness, what’s worse than having your identity taken from you?

    Like I said, I could be wrong about him. It should be easy to tell, with the cooperation of the police and the Walsh family. Maybe I’m full of shit and he’s not Adam. The Walshes don’t have to meet him before any comparison testing. But as someone in the story said to me, even if there’s a half of a half of a half a percent chance that he’s their son, wouldn’t any family want to know?


    BY: DARIEL FIGUEROA 04.29.16

    The original report at the following link includes all of the pictures and reference links that are missing in the above report.


    Studies have found that 95% of all sex crimes are committed by people that have never been convicted of a former sex crime and so they are not on any registry. 

    Government studies have found that the recidivism rates for former sex offenders is as low as 1% in some states and only as high as 7% in the other states. See Yet nearly 100% of the families living at registered addresses suffer inhumane treatment from the public.

    Since the public registry went nationwide many more sex crimes go unreported than before.  No matter how bad the sexual abuse by a family member is to endure, no one wants the stigma to forever attach to their entire family that will happen if just one family member gets put on the public registry.

    To put the frequency of occurrence of a child abduction/murder incident in perspective consider the following.


    From saen:

    According to the United States Census (2012 estimates), the U.S. population in 2012 was 313,800,000, of which 23.5% were under the age of 18, or approximately 74,000,000 children in the United States.

           Finkelhor, Hammer & Sedlak [Finkelhor, D., Hammer, H., & Sedlak, A. J. (2002). Nonfamily Abducted Children: Washington, DC:OJJDP-U.S. Dept. of Justice.], cited data from the National Incidence Studies of Missing, Abducted, Run Away and Thrown Away Children in 1999, revealing that of the 800,000 children reported missing in 1999, only 115 cases (.014%) involved stranger child abductions. Of these 115, 57 children were murdered or not recovered. Sexual assault occurred in approximately half of these stranger child abductions.

           Based on this data, and given a U.S. Population of 74,000,000 children, the likelihood of a child being a victim of this type of crime is less than 1 in a million.

           By comparison, over 1,600 children a year die as a result of neglect and non-sexual abuse, at the hands of their caretakers (source:

           Additional findings by Sandler, Freeman & Socia [Sandler, J. C., Freeman, N. J., & Socia, K. M. (2008). Does a watched pot boil? A time-series analysis of New York State’s sex offender registration and notification law. Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, 14(4), 284–302. doi:10.1037/a0013881] show that only 5% of sex offenses are committed by a recidivist. When combined with the rate of stranger assaults being around 7%, the likelihood that any given sexual assault against a child was committed by a stranger recidivist is less than one half of 1 percent or (.35%). Applying that rate (.35%) to the number of abducted/raped/murdered children per year (57), the likelihood of a child being abducted, raped and murdered by a recidivist stranger is 1 in 200 million.

    By the way, that is one child in the US every 5 years a victim to a stranger recidivist, compared to 8000 that die in the same period at the hands of  their caretakers that are not on any registry.

    The registry has not reduced the occurrence of any of these incidences. 

    I would feel that my kids are safer with someone on the registry for a one time offence, who has served their time and is trying to put their life back together than with someone trusted with their care at a daycare or school or police station or DCFS.  But I would never feel they are safe with an already repeat hands-on offender that there are very few living outside of prison.

    It is like comparing elephants to flees, not apples to oranges.

    The few hundred worst of the worst repeat sex offenders are nothing like the majority of the 880,000 on the registries of former sex offenders in the united states.

    The claim "if it only protects one child it is worth the suffering of millions of children and family members of registrants" is the claim of the likes of Hitler in nazi Germany.  No one should want to be associated with him.

     P.S. Just in, see also:

  • 06 Aug 2016 6:35 AM | Vicki Henry

    Last last month, two state senators in New York—Jeffrey Klein and Diane Savino—issued a report laying out an apparently scary set of numbers. In New York City, Pokémon from Pokémon Go were spotted in front of the homes of 57 people on the state sex registry. Fifty-nine Poké gyms or Pokéstops and 73 other Pokémon items were within a half-block of a registrant's residence.

    To be clear, there have been no reports of Pokémon-related sex crimes. The senators' document does cite the case of a man on Indiana's sex registry who was found playingPokémon Go near where a 16-year-old boy also was playing. In another case in Arizona, the game developers put a Pokéstop at a historic hotel that has since been turned into a halfway house for 43 men on the state registry.

    That was convincing enough for New York governor Andrew Cuomo to issue an orderbanning sex offenders on parole from playing Pokémon Go this week. On Wednesday, Klein, Savino, and additional senators introduced state bills that, among other things, would ban game developers from putting "in-game objectives" within a hundred feet of the home of a registrant.

    Why target those with a sex crime on their record? A spokesperson for Klein's office told VICE this is because of the "very high" recidivism rates of sex offenders compared with other criminals, citing data from a report that Klein co-authored last year. That document notes a re-arrest rate of 48 percent within eight years for those on New York's sex registry, based on 2007 state data.

    But that re-arrest rate includes charges for any crime—not just sex offenses, the target of the legislation. And it confirms a fact that recidivism researchers have long known: When sex offenders do commit another crime, it's far more likely to be a non-sexual one.

    If anything, the data indicates that sex offenders' re-offense rates for other crimes are likely lower, not higher. A 2010 New York State report found that the state's offenders for all crimes had a three-year reconviction rate (a recidivism standard that should produce much lower numbers) of 42 percent.

    More important, state figures show that people on the sex-offense registry have relatively low rates of reoffending for sex crimes. A 2007 state government report—the latest data available—cites a new sex crime re-arrest rate among registrants of 11 percent. And on the federal level, it's even lower: In perhaps the largest recidivism study, the US Department of Justice reported a three-year sex offender reconviction rate of 3.5 percent.

    In a statement to VICE, Klein's office responded to this by saying: "We are being proactive in taking legislative steps to protect even one child enjoying this game from being hurt by a pedophile." (Governor Cuomo's office didn't respond to a request for comment, and Savino's office referred requests to Klein.)

    For one thing, committing a sex-related crime does not necessarily make someone a pedophile. In recent years, people have been put on sex-offender registries forconsensual sexstreaking, and public urination. But more notably, legislators' imperviousness to the data is part of the reason America's sex-offender laws have increasingly grown in number and complexity since the mid 90s.

    In the run-up to passage of the 1996 Megan's Law, for example, Republican representative Jennifer Dunn asserted on the House floor that "the rate of recidivism for [child sex] crimes is astronomical because these people are compulsive." In the Senate, Texas senator Kay Bailey Hutchison asserted, "The repeat crime rate for sex offenders is estimated to be as much as ten times higher than the recidivism rate of other criminals."

    And in a floor debate in 2005 over the Adam Walsh Act, Florida Republican representative Mark Foley (soon to resign for sending sexual messages to underage House pages) said, "There is a 90 percent likelihood of recidivism for sexual crimes against children. Ninety percent... that is their record."

    None of those statements had any research basis. But those declarations and others have fueled the sex-crime policies that have come in since the mid 1990s—from sex registries to bans on offenders living near schools to laws prohibiting registrants from participating in Halloween. Since these restrictions were built on the faulty premise that sex offenders have high re-offense rates, it's unsurprising that they've done basically nothing to prevent new sex crimes.

    For example, a meta-analysis of 20 years of research in the Journal of Crime and Justice noted that none of the six studies on registries conducted between 1995 and 2011 found that the registries lowered recidivism. Similarly, none of the eight studies between 2003 and 2012 of bans on where registrants can live found that they had any effect on sex crime rates or recidivism, according to a US Department of Justicesummary.

    And a 2009 study of the impact of Halloween Laws on sex crimes found no increased rate of sex crimes on Halloween. "These findings raise questions about the wisdom of diverting law enforcement resources to attend to a problem that does not appear to exist," the researchers drily noted.

    If the same is said someday about a new Poké law, there will be a good reason: The vast majority of sex crimes are committed by first-time offenders. In a 2007 study, the Minnesota Department of Corrections reported that about 98 percent of its 10,600 sex crimes between 1990 and 2005 were by people never before convicted.

    So while there's no evidence of Poké-predator problem, even if there were, a gaming law couldn't deter most new sex crimes.

    One expert on sexual violence expert says bills like New York's make a classic mistake. "This is another bill based on the concept of 'stranger danger,' which the research shows comprises a very small portion of sex crimes against children," said Katie Gotch, an Oregon-based sexual behavior treatment provider who is a national co-chair of theNational Partnership to End Interpersonal Violence, in an interview with VICE. "The majority of sexual abuse perpetrated against children is by someone the victim knows."

  • 20 Jul 2016 11:51 PM | Vicki Henry

    An “independent federal public defender office charged with representing poor defendants before the United States Supreme Court” is necessary to fill gaps in legal services to the poor and “better balance the scales of justice between the government and the defendants,” Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) said earlier this month.

    Booker introduced the Clarence Gideon Full Access to Justice Act, S. 3144, July 7, which would create the Defender Office for Supreme Court Advocacy. The office would monitor, file briefs in, and possibly argue on behalf of defendants in criminal cases at the high court, Booker said in introductory remarks.

    The proposed office is largely modeled after the U.S. Solicitor General’s Office, which represents the federal government at the Supreme Court, Booker spokeswoman Monique Waters told Bloomberg BNA.

    That creates a “structural imbalance” between the government and criminal defendants that the proposed Defender Office is intended to address, Waters said.

    The government is represented by “a small cadre of lawyers from the Solicitor General’s Office dedicated solely to Supreme Court litigation,” Booker said in his introductory remarks.

    But public defenders currently lack a similar office.

    “Without counsel trained and experienced in Supreme Court advocacy, the likelihood that cases are decided against criminal defendants increases,” Booker said.

    Justice Elena Kagan has spoken about the lack of Supreme Court experience among criminal defense attorneys.

    “[C]ase in and case out, the category of litigant who is not getting great representation at the Supreme Court are criminal defendants,” Kagan said in 2013.

    She blamed that, in part, on criminal defense attorneys refusing to hand over their cases to Supreme Court experts.

    “Appellate advocacy is hard and it takes a lot of skill and a lot of experience.” Often criminal defendants are represented in the Supreme Court by whomever was the trial counsel, Kagan said.

    Getting these cases instead into the hands of a Supreme Court specialist would be an “enormous help to the system,” she said.

    The federal Defender Services currently has a program, the Supreme Court Advocacy Program, to attempt to address some of these problems.

    The Defender Services partners with Sidley Austin LLP to provide federal defender staff and private appointed attorneys with “a range of services, such as arranging moots, performing legal research, providing substantive and strategic advice, or editing and writing drafts of merits briefs,” according to its website.

    But Jeffrey T. Green, who runs the program at Sidley, told Bloomberg BNA in an e-mail that he agrees with Kagan.

    One of the principal difficulties is that “attorneys don’t like to give up what they perceive to be a ‘golden opportunity,’ ” Green said.

    Still, because “the Court works so hard to get questions right,” Green said he doesn’t “think the failure to turn over cases is outcome-determinative in all but a handful of cases.”

    However, “because these cases have lots of collateral effects — the shape, tenor, and scope of the debate really matter.”

    There “should be a defense counter-weight to the Solicitor General’s office in criminal cases before the Court,” Green said.

    Many of the functions described in Booker’s bill “are now performed by volunteers who are spending nights and weekends trying to help out because it is the right thing to do,” Green said.

    “Formalizing and funding those efforts would also be the right thing to do.”

    But Green said he’s uncertain if the current structure of the Defender Office for Supreme Court Advocacy — modeled after the Solicitor General’s Office — is the best way to achieve the counter-weight.

    Notably, the proposed Defender Office for Supreme Court Advocacy would be organized as a federal corporation rather than as part of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, like the federal Defender Services is.

    Waters said that the organization of the new office was intentional.

    “Like the Office of the Solicitor General (which is located in the executive branch of government), Sen. Booker wanted to create an office to advocate for criminal defendants that was independent of the judicial branch,” Waters said.

    “That would help boost the credibility of the office to the Supreme Court,” she said.

    “In contrast, by placing the Office in the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, which is located in the judicial branch, you lose some independence,” Waters said.

    A spokesman for the AO said the office had “just learned of this legislation and is reviewing it.”

    “Ultimately it would be up to the Judicial Conference, the federal judiciary’s policy-making body, to determine whether to take a position, and if so, what that position would be,” Charles W. Hall, Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, Washington, told Bloomberg BNA in an e-mail.

    The Gideon Act — named after the landmark Supreme Court case that first recognized a Sixth Amendment right to counsel in a criminal case, Gideon v. Wainwright, 372 U.S. 335 (1963) — was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary on July 7.

    To contact the reporter on this story: Kimberly Strawbridge Robinson in Washington at

    To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jessie Kokrda Kamens at and Jeffrey D. Koelemay at

  • 30 May 2016 10:41 AM | Administrator (Administrator)

    There is a new group forming especially for those registrants that have filed petitions with USCIS to bring a loved one to the united states.  Currently the policy of USCIS is to deny any petition that is filed by a registrant unless they can prove beyond a doubt that they are no risk to the beneficiary of the petition.  As it is impossible to prove that any person is of no risk, it is even more difficult for a former sex offender to prove it even if it is true.  Many have tried and failed and as I understand it a few have been successful. This is a discussion group for those registrants who are trying and for those that have had past success or failures, to talk about what works and what does not work.  I encourage registrants that are in or have been in this situation to please join this group by clicking the link below.

    Registrants International Family Petitions Group 

  • 16 May 2016 8:34 PM | Administrator (Administrator)

    In the last few years, Pennsylvania’s courts have taken an active role in defining the propriety and scope of the state’s sex offender registration program. Following on the heels of a December 2014 decision striking down sex offender registration for juveniles, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court recently agreed to hear a sweeping challenge to the retroactive application of Pennsylvania’s adult sex offender registry. The new law, generally referred to as SORNA (Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act), took effect on December 20, 2012 as part of an effort to comply with the federal laws governing sex offenders. SORNA replaced a more lenient registration scheme where the majority of people convicted of sexual crimes had to register for only ten years. SORNA changed the paradigm and drastically increased the number of people included on the registry, the time periods for which they would have to register, and the number of things they have to report. Of the close to 19,500 people on the registry today, roughly three quarters have to register for the rest of their lives without any chance of removal.

    In addition to making most offenders lifetime registrants, SORNA reclassified thousands of people who were ten year registrants under the old law and retroactively increased their terms of registration – in most instances to life. Hundreds of registrants sued, raising a number of different challenges to the law. Until now, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has refused to get involved.

    On April 22, 2016, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court accepted review in, Commonwealth v. Muniz, Commonwealth v. Gilbert,and Commonwealth v. Reed. The cases raise both state and federal challenges. First among several of the most compelling claims, the appellants seek a ruling that SORNA is punitive, not civil, and therefore cannot be applied retroactively under the Ex Post Facto Clauses of the United States and Pennsylvania Constitution. The United States Supreme Court in a 2003 ruling, Smith v. Doe, 538 U.S. 84 (2003), held that Alaska’s registry was designed to protect public safety, and was not so burdensome so as to constitute punishment. Because the Ex Post Facto clause applies to punishment only, retroactively requiring people to register was therefore acceptable under the Federal Constitution. But many state supreme courts are reviewing registration laws under their own constitutions, often with different results. SORNA, like those laws truck down in Ohio, Indiana, Maryland, and elsewhere, is much broader and harsher than the Alaska law at issue in Smith. The appellants hope that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court agrees and declares the law punitive thereby invalidating the retroactive increases in registration.

    The appellants also raise intriguing procedural due process challenges, particularly under the Pennsylvania Constitution. Under another United States Supreme Court case, Connecticut Department of Public Safety v. Doe, 538 U.S. 1 (2003), the Court held that because Connecticut’s law sent no message beyond that registration attaches to particular convictions, the trial process itself afforded sufficient due process. That is not the case in Pennsylvania. SORNA, as specified by statute, declares that registrants are highly likely to recidivise sexually, and are therefore dangerous. However, not only do those convicted of sexual offenses tend to be one of the least likely populations to commit another offense generally, Pennsylvania does not allow a registrant to show he or she is a low risk for reoffending and that question is not at issue during a trial on the underlying offense. To make a public finding that an individual is dangerous, but failing to provide an opportunity to challenge that determination, the appellants believe the fundamental tenets of notice and opportunity to be heard are denied.

    This due process concern is amplified in Pennsylvania because unlike the Federal Constitution, Pennsylvania’s Constitution includes reputation as a fundamental right. The appellants have latched onto the added protections of this clause and raised a version of due process called the irrebutable presumption doctrine. The doctrine provides that if a state denies a person or group a right based upon a particular presumption, the presumption must be universally true and there must be no reasonable alternatives available to determine the classification. In plain language, the appellants argue that SORNA denies a person their right to reputation by presuming that a conviction for an enumerated offense means they are likely to sexually recidivise. However, that presumption is not universally true because many offenders are not high risks to recidivise, and there are science based risk assessment tools that are capable of making these assessments, i.e., reasonable alternatives.

    The court also accepted many other claims, so it obviously wants to put the issue to rest. On which side of the bed it ultimately settles is currently difficult to guess. A decision is likely expected sometime in early 2017.


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