Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Report Sex Offenses by Minors? You Tell Me

Posted By on Tue, Aug 19, 2008 at 5:31 AM

Tennessee doesn’t require sex offenders to register with the state’s sex crime registry if their conviction came while they were minors. On its face it makes sense. The justice system has a bias toward protecting children’s identities. During criminal trials, juvenile records are generally inadmissible and even prosecutors can’t have them unsealed just to have a look. The case of 17-year-old Genarlow Wilson—who was convicted of raping a child for a consensual sex act with a 15-year-old—is a good argument for keeping these histories private. Wilson is probably not a criminal deviant—the conviction was later overturned—but he did break the law while a minor. To my mind, if he hadn’t been exonerated, having this offense follow him around forever doesn’t make sense. Then there’s Grant Anthony Friese. In 1995 he was convicted of molesting a 6-year-old in South Carolina. He was 14 at the time, but South Carolina law required that he register as a sex offender. Georgia requires the same. But not Tennessee, where he moved in 2006. From November of 2006 to August of 2007, he prowled coin-op laundromats in Knoxville, raping three women at knifepoint. We’ll never know whether Friese would have been caught sooner if his name had been included on a sex offender registry, but it’s not the kind of gamble anyone wants to take. So what say you, Pithsters? Do we err on the side of privacy for minors, as our justice system does in most cases, or do we try and protect society as a whole at the cost of the reputation of a few? I’m never short of opinions, but this one has me stumped.

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