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Opening Arguments

Falsely accused

Making the case for Indiana's sex and violent offender registry for the people who deserve to be on it is tough enough -- yes, it might contribute to public safety, but at the cost of hounding for life people who have already served their sentences. Trying to dodge responsibility for putting people on it who don't belong is just inexcusable:

A federal appeals court said Indiana's sex and violent offender registry unconstitutionally violated
the due process rights of thousands of registrants because it did not give them a chance to fix mistakes.

The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago rejected arguments by the Indiana Department of Correction that it was not directly responsible for errors in the registry, which contains about 24,000 names, and that registrants had other procedures to challenge mistakes.

Concluding that erroneous labeling as a "sexually violent predator" implicated a liberty interest protected by the Due Process Clause, the 7th Circuit noted that Indiana had recently begun letting current prisoners challenge pending registry listings, but gave other registrants no such opportunity.

[. . .]

The case was brought by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of a class of registrants including David Schepers, 50, who was convicted in 2006 of two counts of child exploitation.

His entry had for a while wrongly labeled him a "sexually violent predator," subjecting him to extra burdens such as travel limits, and an inability to live, work or volunteer within 1,000 feet of a school, public park or youth center.

I have some sympathy for Mr. Schepers, despite whatever he did to earn the child-exploitation conviction. The very thought of being falsely accused of anything is sobering. I recently got an automated call on my cell phone telling me it was urgent I call a certain number for a debt-collection agency. I called immediately -- a credit-rating threat is nothing to mess with -- and asked what money I was supposed to owe to whom. The guy asked me what number I was calling from. I told him, and he asked if Laura so-and-so was there. Nope, just me, I said. It turns out that the debt collectors had called a wrong number. That made obvious sense the minute I heard it -- how would they get the cell phone number I don't give out to anyone? I felt enormous relief, but my stomach was still tied in knots all evening.