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Friday, September 30, 2022
HomeNewsArchivesBERRY SEEKS TOUGHER LAW ON CHILD RAPISTS

BERRY SEEKS TOUGHER LAW ON CHILD RAPISTS

Sen. Lorraine Berry has proposed legislation that would establish 15- and 25-year mandatory sentences for first- and second-time sexual offenders, respectively, who were found guilty of raping children aged 10 and under.
Berry met with defense attorneys and prosecutors this week to try to establish some consensus on how best to legally "protect our children, especially the very young, from the clutches of rapists and child molesters," Berry reported.
At the meeting were Alva Swan and Douglas Dick from the Attorney General's Office and attorney Bernard Van Sluytman. Dick is part of the newly formed Multi-Disciplinary Team, which involves members of several agencies, including Kidscope, Human Services and the Police Department.
No consensus was reached, Berry's release said.
One area of concern, according to Dick, was mandatory sentencing — you don't want to make the sentence so high or make the statutes so rigid that plea bargaining is not even an issue. He explained that if sentencing is nonnegotiable, there is no incentive for plea bargaining, leaving defense attorneys no choice but to go to full trial.
"Every case does not have strong enough evidence to necessarily win it," Dick said.
And in some cases, he added, it is not in the child's best interest to go to court. "The child may be too traumatized."
Dick said current statutes call for a mandatory 10-year jail term for both aggravated rape and first-degree rape, no matter the age of the victim.
Berry said her proposed legislation would retain the current statutes for victims over 10 years old.
Another issue to be investigated, according to Dick, is the incorporation of something like the Child Hearsay Law now in place in 32 states.
What the law does, he said, is broaden the circumstances under which evidence would be acceptable -— for example, from a therapist or school teacher whom a victim may have talked to after the crime.
Berry said the goal of Wednesday's meeting was to reach an agreement about amendments, "ensuring there will be no challenges to my proposed legislation."
Swan said he'd like to be sure the Hearsay Law had been upheld by federal courts. Dick said he would research the matter and report back to Swan and Berry.

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