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January 29, 2009

A reward for checking this blog regularly...

in the form of being among the first to know that we do NOT have class on Friday, January 30.  (I am in Califorina for this Stanford Law Review symposium, so I have to cancel.)  I planned to annouce this at our class on Wednesday, but the snow got in our way.

Sorry for the slow start to the semester, but you can/should make up for lost time by keeping up with sentencing news at Sentencing Law & Policy and/or by commenting on the cases flagged here.

Stay warm and enjoy the SuperBowl.  And get geared up for an exciting sentencing February.

January 29, 2009 in Class activities | Permalink


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While reading for pleasure (gasp!) this week, i came across this by Kahlil Gibran, a 20th century Indian poet. In this poem, The Prophet, the poet is asked to speak on several topics, including Crime and Punishment. Its language is very lyrical, if nothing else.


The philosophy underlying the poem's message is obviously Hindu/Eastern. While i don't necessarily agree with all the poem's sentiments it's worth noticing the cultural differences which might arise in conversations about punishment & sentencing.

I'm posting this because i think it's relevant to hear other cultures describe the value of human life in the balance during the sentencing process. I wasn't sure if this is the appropriate place for this comment, but decided it was general and innocuous enough.

Posted by: Mario | Jan 30, 2009 11:56:01 AM

Great link and great insight, Mario! Thanks for contributing!

Posted by: Doug B. | Jan 30, 2009 6:00:48 PM

This article is interesting. A female prison employee was sentenced to 6 mo in prison for having sex with a male inmate. Thats fine - but the worst part - she has to register as a sex offender. So now consensual sex between two consenting adults makes you a sex offender? We probably have a bunch of sex offenders in our class under those standards!!!!


Posted by: Jeanna | Jan 31, 2009 7:33:30 PM

Here is a short article on CNN regarding Japan's executions of four convicted killers. Apparently, the preferred method of execution in Japan is hanging.

My only question is why does Amnesty International say "the executions represented blatant human rights violations?" One of the men who was hanged killed two women and burned their bodies in a barrel, so I'm wondering if Amnesty International has a problem with the method of execution or the killings themselves.

Posted by: Andy | Feb 1, 2009 2:56:16 PM

Sorry, here is the link.


Posted by: Andy | Feb 1, 2009 2:56:51 PM


Yeah, I get your point. It does seem a bit off to have her register as a sex offender. And yet . . .

It does make sense to me. Especially if she is just a Tier I offender. A prison employee-inmate relationship could roughly compared to teacher-adult high school student relationship. Both relationships deal in power inequities so I see the wisdom in prohibiting the relationships. Although when you take an employee, like a prison secretary, who is most likely not in a supervisory role of any sort with an inmate, then the rationale starts to unwind a little bit. AND the addition of the sex offender registration feels pretty misplaced.

In the following article, I think that the closest comparison (to the prison secretary example) would be to school employees (but non-teacher and non-supervisory) adults who have sex with adult high school students.


I did a bit of research on the great disparities between some minor and severe sex offenders a few months ago. I'll try to copy and paste that in my next comment. There are some wild, terrible examples of women who are "sex offenders" who never should have been labeled as such.

Posted by: Rachel | Feb 1, 2009 8:28:11 PM

From: Rachel Laing
Date: September 11, 2008
Re: Contrast between minor and severe examples within class of sex offenders


Wendy Whitaker, as a 17-year-old high school sophomore, engaged in oral sex with a 15-year-old male classmate. In 1997, Whitaker pled guilty to the crime of sodomy, was sentenced to five years probation, and was required to register as a sex offender. Due to Georgia’s strict sex offender residency restrictions, Whitaker has been forced to move twice and recently faced her third move since her home was found to be within 1,000 feet of a church.

At the age of 23, Jennifer Lower, now an Iowa resident, was convicted of a misdemeanor offense in Ohio, unlawful sexual conduct with a minor and was required to register as a sex offender. She and her husband have had such difficulty finding a residence that comports with a new Iowa regulation barring sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a school or day-care facility that Lower has given up the search and recently attempted to turn herself into authorities.


Joseph Edward Duncan, a convicted sex offender, pled guilty to federal charges and was sentenced to death for the 2005 kidnapping, sexual abuse, and murder of a 9-year-old boy. Duncan abducted the boy and his 8-year-old sister from their home after murdering their older brother, mother, and her fiancé in order to do so. Duncan sexually and physically abused the children in the Idaho forest for several weeks, ultimately shooting the boy in the stomach and then point-blank in the head. Duncan had served time on an earlier rape conviction and is the suspect in the slaying of three other children.

John Wayne Thomson, a convicted sex offender with three prior rape convictions, murdered a man during a sex act after the man had stopped to help him with his car trouble. Thomson is wanted in connection with two other Washington murders.

Details on a Civil Commitment Facility—an interesting article.
Worst of the Worst Sex Offenders, THE DAILY NEWS ONLINE, Jan.27, 2007 http://www.tdn.com/articles/2007/01/28/top_story/news01.txt

More on Old, Minor Offenses—I wish that I could have gotten this one for you.
Nicholas Riccardi & Jeff Leeds, Megan's Law Calling Up Old, Minor Offenses, THE LOS ANGELES TIMES, Feb. 24, 1997.
I could not access this article via Westlaw, and payment was required to view the full article online (http://pqasb.pqarchiver.com/latimes/access/11126435.html?dids=11126435:11126435&FMT=ABS&FMTS=ABS:FT&date=Feb+24%2C+1997&author=NICHOLAS+RICCARDI%3B+JEFF+LEEDS&pub=Los+Angeles+Times&desc=Megan+'+s+Law+Calling+Up+Old+%2C+++Minor+Offenses&pqatl=google) —but it seems right on point. Here is an abstract:
Gay men arrested by police in the 1940s, '50s and '60s for seeking consensual sex with other adult men are under legal scrutiny again--this time as registered sex offenders who fear they could be subject to the recently enacted Megan's Law.
But today, struggling to implement Megan's Law and similar statutes, law enforcement agencies across the state are scrambling to update long-neglected files, sending police to knock on the doors of elderly men whose forgotten indiscretions have come back to haunt them.
That means people like Paul, a 90-year-old Orange County Leisure World resident who--like others in this story--asked that his real name not be used, can remain on the register. In 1944, Paul was charged with lewd conduct after police found him touching the knee of another man in a parked car on a secluded West Hollywood street. He pleaded guilty to the charges, but went on with his life and eventually married.
Pictures of your Minor Offenders—because I thought that you’d find this interesting, I looked up your minor female sexual offenders on their respective online state sex offender registry. Interesting ladies . . .

Wendy Whitaker

Jennifer Lower

Posted by: Gov'tGirl | Feb 1, 2009 8:31:38 PM

Ugh. Three posts in a row. Too many. But I just noticed that my footnotes from the copy/paste above did not go in--so here are some missing links to the mentioned offenders.

Bill Rankin, Law Would Evict Female Sex ‘Offender’ for Teen Sex, ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION, July 11, 2008, at ________, available at http://www.ajc.com/metro/content/metro/stories/2008/07/11/sex_offender_eviction_challengec.html.
Iowa Sex Offender Passes Deadline, Tries to Turn Self In, http://www.ketv.com/news/5546504/detail.html?subid=22100461&qs=1;bp=t
“Devil” Child-Killer May Get Death Wish, Jury Says, Aug. 22, 2008, http://www.cnn.com/2008/CRIME/08/22/duncan.verdict.ap/?iref=mpstoryview; see also Idaho suspect’s blog details demons, July 4, 2005, http://www.cnn.com/2005/US/07/04/duncan.blog/
DA to seek death penalty in businessman’s slaying, THE PRESS ENTERPRISE, http://www.pe.com/localnews/inland/stories/PE_News_Local_S_thomson26.3c5e7a7.html.

Posted by: Rachel (Gov'tGirl) | Feb 1, 2009 10:15:05 PM

I saw this interesting article about a 13 year old sentenced to life without parole and sure enough, Prof. Berman was quoted: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/03/us/03bar.html?_r=1&partner=rss&emc=rss

I hope the Supreme Court takes up the case. I think the law needs examined, but I really think the juvenile sentencing judge should be scrutinized. How can you assume a 13 year old's life should be completely thrown away like that? Disgraceful.

Posted by: Shawn | Feb 2, 2009 5:40:25 PM

Holder update - here is a link to a quick blurb about what the new AG had to say regarding potential consequences in the fallout from the financial crisis. While we are a while from any possible sentencing in this matter I do think who the AG chooses to pursue on any potential criminal (or possibley civil) actions will be important in decisions of ultimate punsihment.


Posted by: Zach | Feb 3, 2009 11:23:55 AM

Regarding the FL juvenile sentenced to life for a rape it appears he did not commit, I am appalled. Not only is there an abundance of social science evidence that children do not reach full adult mentality until much after 18, let alone 13, even if Mr. Sullivan did commit this rape, according to the Ohio Association of County Behavioral Health Authorities, research shows that “with treatment, supervision and support, the likelihood of a youth committing subsequent sex offenses is about 4–10 percent.” Compare that with the roughly 33% recidivism rate of adult offenders generally. The principle of sending a CHILD to prison for LIFE is ridiculous. I think this case is a horrifying example of a bad judge making a very bad decision and ruining a life that could have been saved. I'd like to reiterate again, that Mr. Sullivan is one of the two ONLY people in the world to be sentenced to life in prison at age 13 for a non-killing offense, was represented by a lawyer that was subsequently disbarred, and was convicted on the statement of a victim whose identification consisted of terms like “little” and “really black.” I wonder how many local residents fit that description at the time. This is a sentence that must be reevaluated.

Posted by: Melissa | Feb 11, 2009 10:43:02 AM

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