Thursday, October 18, 2001

'Megan's Law' attacked as excessive


Attorneys argue sex offenders punished twice

By Charles Wolfe
The Associated Press

        FRANKFORT — State attorneys Wednesday went before the Kentucky Supreme Court to defend a law requiring sex offenders to be registered and their whereabouts made public.

        They argued that registration and public notification are matters of public safety and that the law is neither double jeopardy — two punishments for one crime — nor an unwarranted invasion of privacy.

        The law “provides a way Kentuckians can be protected from admitted and convicted sexual predators,” Assistant Attorney General Anitria Franklin told the justices.

        On the other side, lawyers from the Department for Public Advocacy argued that the law, known as Megan's Law in honor of a murdered New Jersey child, treats sex offenders differently from any other felons who have served their time.

        Once out of prison, they effectively have limited choices of where to live, because every change of residence must be registered with police. In addition, addresses and mug shots of “high risk” offenders are posted on a Kentucky State Police Web site.

        Carol Camp, representing convicted rapist William Keith Hyatt Jr. of Anderson County, said Mr. Hyatt has been “subjected to a form of supervised release” even though he served out a six-year prison sentence and underwent sex-offender treatment.

        “He's been branded as someone so dangerous he's not fit to live in our community, even though he served out, completed treatment and had his civil rights restored,” Ms. Camp said.

        The essence of Megan's Law is that no sex offender should be released into an unsuspecting community. Megan Kanka, for whom the law was named, was raped and killed in 1994 by a twice-convicted sex offender who had moved into her neighborhood without notice.

        Since last year, Kentucky's law has been attacked in at least 72 criminal appeals, four of which were before the justices Wednesday. One was that of Nate Sims, a convicted rapist whose case gained national notoriety when townspeople hounded him out of Danville.

        Other appeals were by Dennis Gilbert Hall, convicted of sodomy on a child in Woodford County, and Michael Martinez, convicted of third-degree rape and sodomy in Jefferson County.

        Mr. Hyatt was charged with sexually brutalizing a female relative. He pleaded guilty to sexual abuse, second-degree rape and sodomy and entered prison in 1993.

        In his case, Ms. Camp argued that Kentucky's first sex-offender registration law was not enacted until 1994 and was wrongly applied to people who already were in prison.

       



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