The Legislature’s Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee is wise to wait on any changes to Maine’s sex offender registry and allow for a more thoughtful review.
The Easter Sunday murders of two people on the sex offender registry were reprehensible, but the shock of those crimes shouldn’t lead to a change led by hysteria and emotion.
The chairman of the committee, Bill Diamond, D-Windham, convened the committee to consider emergency legislation after Stephen Marshall, 20, of Canada, killed Joseph Gray, 57, of Milo, and William Elliott, 24, of Corinth, on Easter Sunday. After holding hearings, Diamond said he didn’t believe immediate action was necessary. Instead, the committee will likely review what the sex offender registry contains and how it’s displayed.
That’s the right course of action. The registry should remain available and posted on the Web for easy public access. However, committee members should consider revisions to the way offenders are listed that would allow the public to differentiate between different types of sex crimes.
Elliott, for example, was convicted of having sex with his 15-year-old girlfriend when he was 19. Because of the nature of the crime, he was required to register as a sex offender. However, few would argue that he posed as much of a threat to society as a pedophile or violent rapist.
Sex offender registries should be revised to exclude these kinds of crimes. If they must be included, then the registry should clearly indicate the nature of the crimes.
The Legislature should not take down Maine’s sex offender registry because of these heinous murders. As abhorrent as we might find them, Marshall committed the crime, not the registry. Another perpetrator might use a phone book or a newspaper to find his victim. Does that mean we should abolish phone books and newspapers? Of course not.
This is public information that parents can use to protect the safety of their children. We’ll never know how many times this information has been used for the protection of the public, because, rather than something bad occurring, as in the case of these murders, nothing occurs when it serves to protect people.
The online registry does make this information much more accessible. However, many parents wouldn’t get the information if it weren’t posted online.
Marshall went to the homes of these sex offenders and murdered them. Whatever his motivation, he likely wouldn’t have been thwarted by the inconvenience of getting this information somewhere other than Internet. Whatever demon was driving him would have likely prompted him to get the information somewhere else.
Five years for a life
The governor and legislators honored the memory of Scarborough’s Tina Turcotte last week as they passed unanimously the bill known as “Tina’s law.”
Turcotte died last summer when her car was struck by a truck driven by Scott Hewitt, who had more than 20 license suspensions and more than 60 motor vehicle convictions.
The new law creates strict penalties for drivers who operate a vehicle with a suspended or revoked licenses. However, the law could go further.
Rep. Darlene Curley, R-Scarborough, asked members of the House to include a mandatory five-year jail sentence for drivers who kill someone while driving with a suspended or revoked license. Legislators should consider amending the bill in the future to include this penalty.
To ask habitual offenders to give at least five years for a life seems only fair.
Brendan Moran, editor