Stories posted are written by National news Journalists, not by this blog.
Our Blog Tips

Essay: Sex and Justice

Essay: Sex and Justice - 11.16.2010

A recent horrifying case involving teen suicide has gotten wide attention. The case got Michigan Radio’s Political Analyst Jack Lessenberry thinking about the state’s sex offender registry.

If news is what people are talking about, then the big story in Michigan last week wasn’t the budget deficit, or Governor-elect Rick Snyder’s efforts to put together an administration.

No, the big story was a horrifying case where a fourteen-year-old girl killed herself after having sex with an eighteen-year-old boy.

And it ought to make us all think about a lot of things, including whether the Michigan Sex Offender registry makes any sense.

In this tragic case, both teens at first told police the act was consensual, but later the girl appeared on local TV news, and said she had been raped. Following that, the kids in her high school evidently turned on her. Eventually, the child went home and hung herself. This story is distressing on too many levels to count.

Whatever actually happened between the teens is hard to determine, though police say the girl said she told the boy she was eager to lose her virginity. If so, she later had second thoughts. As a journalist, I am appalled that a local so-called news station put this child on TV, identifying her by name, as she talked about her sex life.

Grownups ought to know how cruel the world can be.

But this whole episode really ought to draw attention to an appalling institution called the Michigan Sex Offender Registry.

Since the 1990s, the registry has listed anyone convicted of a so-called sex crime and indicates where they live. The idea was to protect children by allowing families to discover if a convicted sex offender lives in the neighborhood.

That may make some sense in the case of serious pedophiles, though it also could be seen as a dangerous invitation to vigilante action. But the registry also includes those convicted of a wide variety of far lesser offenses, including drunk frat boys who relieved themselves in public. They are on there with the serial rapists.

The main problem is in cases like this one. In Michigan sixteen is the legal age of consent. But in our highly sexualized society, there are many sixteen year old boys who are active with their almost sixteen year old girlfriends. Legally, they are committing a felony.

If they are caught, they will end up on the registry, and you can imagine what that will do to their futures.

A few years ago, I knew of a seventeen-year-old honor student who was taken to court for having relations with his underage girlfriend. Upon finding out he’d be on the registry, he killed himself by driving into the path of a huge truck.

In the case now making headlines, the student who was the dead girl’s sex partner wasn’t old enough to legally drink, but he was headed to hard time in prison, even if she had admitted that she solicited him. Our law has no tolerance for sex with underage minors, no matter the circumstances. The young man would also have been on the sex offender list for at least twenty-five years.

But ironically, he won’t be on that list now, since the only witness is dead. I’m not saying he should be, nor am I condoning whatever his behavior was. I am saying there is something terribly wrong with this system. ..Source.. by Michigan Radio’s Political Analyst Jack Lessenberry

In response to the above story is another relevant comment:
As the mother of someone on the registry, I can attest to the nightmare it creates. As a young boy, my son did something inappropriate, yet deemed typically "exploratory" by the evaluators we saw. Every evaluation stated he should not be looked at as a "predator." Even the judge acknowledged the faults with the registry. The stigma pushed my son to attempt suicide three years ago, 10 years after the incident. We're lucky he was found before he died. If the Adam Walsh Act is enacted by our legislature, I fear he will be pushed to the edge again. He and his high school sweetheart of eight years would love to plan a future together, but live in fear of the unknown. Let's hope and pray people in power see the punishment these Draconian laws inflict.

Rape Claim, Taunting Lead to Teen's Suicide

11-11-2010 Michigan:

Samantha Kelly endured merciless taunting from classmates after they learned that the high school freshman had accused a senior of rape.

The weeks of harassment eventually became too much. Samantha went home from school Monday and hanged herself in this community southwest of Detroit.

With their key witness dead, prosecutors on Wednesday dropped criminal charges against the older student, saying they had no case without the accuser's testimony.

Samantha's mother screamed at 18-year-old Joseph Tarnopolski after his brief court appearance and had to be restrained by a relative. She told reporters she was not consulted about the decision to dismiss the third-degree criminal sexual conduct charge.

"My daughter did not get any justice," June Justice said.

Tarnopolski told the Detroit Free Press he was sorry to hear of the girl's death. He told Detroit station WJBK Samantha was "a friend" and felt "a little bit" responsible, but said others were behind any taunts.

"If she was getting ridiculed, it's not because it me," Tarnopolski said. "It's because of somebody else."

Samantha's accusations became known to many of her neighbors and classmates after she and her mother spoke to a local television station about the matter. Samantha's face was blocked out, but word of her allegations quickly spread.

"People wanted to beat her up - people who were friends of Joe," said Ayla Raines, who also attended Huron High School. "Not to her face. She heard from other people that they wanted to beat her up."

Another student, Calie Bouchard, said 14-year-old Samantha was confronted once in the lunch room by a group of girls who insisted she was lying.

"She started breaking down in tears," Calie said.

Principal Donovan Rowe said school officials investigated the alleged bullying and found nothing overt. Rowe said on occasion he walked behind Samantha as she went from class to class and witnessed no harassment.

Huron Township police said Justice brought her daughter to the station on Sept. 27, a day after the encounter with Tarnopolski, to file a sexual assault report. At the time it was considered a statutory rape case, meaning the pair had consensual sex but that she was under the age of consent.

Tarnopolski told WJBK that he had sex with Samantha, but it was a "mutual thing."

Justice also met with school officials and asked to keep the matter confidential, the principal said. Initially, he added, there was no animosity between the two families.

School officials said they were blindsided by the Oct. 18 television report in which Justice criticized administrators for not taking action to protect her daughter.

Before the story aired on WJBK, Justice "was pretty complimentary of us," Rowe said. "She indicated she wanted to move her daughter to another school, but Samantha wanted to stay here."

Samantha had not been at school for about two weeks before returning Monday morning with her mother.

"Her mom had mentioned some harassment," Rowe said. "I asked her specifically if it was happening here. She said no. It was happening in the trailer park."

Samantha told close friends she was constantly being intimidated.

"She told me she was being extremely bullied, and it was extremely stressful," said 16-year-old Devyn Waldecker, a neighbor in the Huron Estates mobile home park. "People bumped into her in the hallways at school. On two occasions after school, people tried to jump her."

Waldecker, who attends another school, wanted to help the girl she had befriended just this past June, but "really didn't know what to do."

"I told her I was there for her - anything she needed from me," Waldecker said.

Samantha didn't deserve such an ordeal, said Devyn's mother, Shannon Waldecker. "Sam was a very sweet, soft-spoken person and very honest."

After school Tuesday, Devyn Waldecker learned from Samantha's mother that her good friend was dead.

"I was shocked and heartbroken," the girl said.

On Wednesday, Wayne County prosecutor's spokeswoman Maria Miller said the case against Tarnopolski could not proceed "because the sole evidence ... was the complainant."

Attorney Joseph Kosmala, a Detroit-area defense lawyer who was not involved in the case, said the prosecutor seemed to have no other choice.

"Sexual assaults are not crimes that typically take place in front of witnesses. They're private crimes," Kosmala said. "Unless the complainant can sit in the witness chair and point the finger, there is no case."

Police notified school officials Monday night about the suicide. Students were told the next day that a schoolmate had died and that counselors were available.

Tarnopolski's attorney, Jacqueline George, called the case "a sad situation" for all involved. "I hope both families can heal," she said.

A Facebook page was created to memorialize Samantha and by Wednesday afternoon had more than 550 friends. It reads, "R.I.P., Samantha Kelly. You will be missed. We love you." ..Source.. by CBS News

No comments: