Thursday, January 8, 2009
U.S. v. Comstock
By LARRY O'DELL - Associated Press Writer
RICHMOND -- Congress overstepped its authority when it enacted a law allowing the federal government to hold sex offenders in custody indefinitely beyond the end of their prison terms, a federal appeals court ruled Thursday.
The law allowing civil commitment of "sexually dangerous" federal inmates intrudes on police powers that the Constitution reserves for states, many of which have their own similar statutes, a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said.
Civil commitment power "is among the most severe wielded by any government," Judge Diana Gribbon Motz wrote. "The Framers, distrustful of such authority, reposed such broad powers in the states, limiting the national government to specific and enumerated powers."
In upholding a decision by U.S. District Judge W. Earl Britt of Raleigh, N.C., the 4th Circuit became the first federal appeals court to rule on an issue that has divided courts nationwide. A judge in Minnesota reached the same conclusion as Britt, while courts in Hawaii, Oklahoma and Massachusetts upheld the measure.
Thursday's ruling is binding only in the states included in the 4th Circuit: Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia and Maryland.
U.S. Department of Justice spokesman Charles Miller said it was too early to comment on what steps the government might take next. The department could appeal the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court or seek a rehearing before the full federal appeals court.
Elizabeth Luck, a spokeswoman for the federal public defender's office in Raleigh, declined to comment. The public defender represented five inmates who challenged the law after they were kept in custody beyond the end of their sentences at the federal prison hospital in Butner, N.C.
Civil commitment was authorized by the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act, which President Bush signed in July 2006. The act, named after the son of America's Most Wanted television host John Walsh, also establishes a national sex offender registry, increases punishments for some federal crimes against children and strengthens child pornography protections. Those provisions are not affected by the ruling.
The appeals court found no merit in the government's argument that it had constitutional authority to enact the civil commitment law under the Commerce Clause, ruling that "sexual dangerousness does not substantially affect interstate commerce."
The government also relied on a clause authorizing Congress to enact "all laws which shall be necessary and proper" for executing federal powers, but the court said that applies only to powers enumerated by the Constitution.
"Our holding, however, does not require that the Government's legitimate policy concerns go unaddressed," Motz wrote, suggesting federal authorities concerned about a soon-to-be-released inmate's sexual dangerousness can notify state officials, who can pursue civil commitment under state law.
"But Congress's perceived need for the sort of civil commitment statute at issue here does not create constitutional power where none exists," Motz wrote. "Congress must instead seek alternative, constitutional means of achieving what may well be commendable objectives."
Motz was joined in the opinion by Judge G. Steven Agee and visiting U.S. District Judge James C. Cacheris.
View the article here
JACKSON (AP) - A judge has set a $100,000 bond for a former police officer accused of raping a minor.
Jeffery Webb Sr. is charged with statutory rape and sexual battery, according to the Jackson police docket. Details of the crime have not been made public.
- And why haven't the details been made public? Because he's a "good ole' boy?"
This is the second time the 50-year-old former Jackson officer has been accused of rape.
Webb was charged with rape in 2002 for allegedly forcing a 16-year-old girl to have sex. He was acquitted of the charges in 2006.
- And he'll probably be acquitted again!
Webb was found not guilty of the crime in March 2006 following a jury trial in Hinds County.
A satellite tracking device that will allow parents to plot their child's location to within 10ft will go on sale in the UK in March, its manufacturer said.
Concerned parents will be able to receive text or email updates of their child's location.
Nu.M8, thought to be the world's first GPS locator device specifically designed to be worn by children, is concealed within a digital watch.
It can be securely fastened to a child's wrist and will trigger an alert if forcibly removed.
Parents who text "wru", or click "where r you" on the secure website, will be able to see the child's location on Google maps and the street address and postcode will also be displayed.
So-called "safe zones" can also be set up in which children can play safely and an alert will be sent to the parent's mobile phone and computer if the child strays out of that area.
The watch, which will go on sale in March, is expected to cost £149.99, with a standard monthly subscription fee of £9.99.
Steve Salmon, chief executive of Lok8u, the firm launching the watch, said: "Nu.M8 gives parents the reassurance of knowing where their children are, anytime, anywhere.
"Hopefully in using this product girls and boys can now be given the similar freedom to play outside that I enjoyed as a child."
He said the overriding aim of the watch was "to give children their freedom and parents peace of mind".
The watch will be launched this week at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, which runs from Thursday to Sunday.
So we need a VIGILANTE registry, so sex offenders know the criminal vigilantes who live around them. And once again, this is more evidence that the online registry is a hit-list, and should be taken offline and used by police only!
A suspected sex offender fell 50 feet to his death from an apartment block as he fled a baying vigilante gang, a court heard today.
Terrified _____, 44, made a run for it when three men and two women turned up at his second floor flat to give him a revenge beating over claims he had sexually assaulted a 13 year-old-boy, it was alleged.
As one of the armed gang started banging on his front door shouting: 'I'm going to f***ing kill you' Campbell climbed over his balcony in a bid to escape.
But as he did so he lost his grip on the rail and plumetted to the ground. The Glaswegian suffered multiple injuries and was pronounced dead in Royal Bolton hospital in Bolton, Greater Manchester.
Manchester Crown Court was told during the incident CCTV captured one of the women hiding a baseball bat up the back of her coat, whilst her husband was carrying a hammer.
Another woman was carrying a spanner or wrench and a fourth man was carrying a bike chain. The four tried to hide their faces to avoid being recognised.
Jamie Watson, 32, his wife Sarah Watson, 32, Katia Briercliffe, 36, Paul McCarthy, 36 and Martin McMulkin, 37 all deny manslaughter.
The tragedy occurred at 7.20pm in July last year after the 13 year-old-boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, had been Campbell's second floor flat in Blackshaw Lane, Deane, Bolton.
He came out 20 minutes later and told two friends he had been indecently assaulted.
The allegations spread around the Deane area of Bolton, Greater Manchester and locals were seen gathering around the block of flats.
Sarah and Jamie Watson were seen entering the flats with Katia Briercliffe, and the 13 year-old-boy and being joined in the lift by McMulkin and McCarthy - who also lived at the flats.
The boy was seen on the building's CCTV footage pointing out the flat he had been in, before leaving Fernstead House.
CCTV showed Sarah Watson hiding a baseball bat up the back of her coat, Jamie Watson carrying a hammer, Katia Briercliffe carrying a spanner or wrench and Martin McMulkin carrying a bike chain.
Prosecuting Mr Peter Cadwallader said the jury may have some sympathy for the defendants given the allegations made towards the victim.
- Sympathy? For what? These are vigilante criminals, who caused a mans death! They should be in prison for a long time for involuntary man-slaughter, and attempted murder, which is obvious what their intentions were. What kind of message is this sending out to other potential vigilantes?
But he said: 'However justified there position it cannot be acceptable for a vigilante group to start taking the law into their own hands and that is the simple issue in this case because that is what happened.'
'A large group of young people of a similar age to the boy also gathered in the vicinity of the deceased flat.'
'They didn't take part in the subsequent events although their presence did increase the hostile atmosphere that existed at the time.
'Attempts were made by the individuals to cover and hide their features which the crown say was indicative of what they intended.
'The crown allege that the defendants as a group were armed and all of them save for McMulkin made efforts to hide their faces.
'The only sensible conclusion we suggest that we draw is that they indented to give the defendant a beating. That they intended to assault him.
- Come on!!!!! They intended to KILL him, that is obvious by the weapons of choice, and the words spoken while the man was knocking on the door.
'In interview Katia said that she and Sarah Watson went into the small vestibule outside the flat. She said that Sarah Watson had called out in a calm voice "Jimmy".
'The males remained outside the vestibule she said. _____ did open his door but he was too quick and managed to close it before the defendants could force their way in.
'Once _____ had closed the door there was an attack on it with weapons. It was struck. The glass was broke. There was banging and noise and it was so great that it was heard by neighbours.'
'One neighbour was listening to a tennis match on TV but he could still hear the attack. He heard a female voice shouting "I'm going to f***ing get you" or "I'm going to f***ing kill you" - he wasn't quite sure.
'The crown say that the defendants were trying to force the door. They were a large group. They were armed. They were damaging the door and attacking it.
'Although you may have little sympathy for _____, it must have been a frightening experience and he must have been fearful of what was going to happen if they gained entry.'
- This man is innocent, he had not been to court, or even arrested for anything. They attacked and caused the death of a man, they assumed, harmed a child, without any proof, except a child's words!
'Whatever the sympathies are at that stage the defendants, we say, were all acting entirely unlawfully in trying to take the law into their own hands and act as a vigilante group.
'It is not acceptable for defendants to take the law into their own hands. It is apparent from the CCTV footage that whilst the deceased felt under attack he went onto the balcony with the intention to lower himself down.'
'It is equally clear that he lost his grip in trying to climb down and he fell and died as a result of injuries he sustained in the fall.'
'The inference that can be drawn is that _____ was in fear as a result of the defendants attempt to break into his flat. He must have known that he faced a beating at least.
- And if the UK had not have banned guns, which I still believe is the case, he could've defended himself from these thugs!
'There was no other way out of the flat other than through the front door or by the balcony.
'Therefore it is our case that in trying to escape the unlawful conduct of the defendants he fell to his death.
'It was only after Sarah Watson had left the flats that she called the police about the conduct of the deceased.'
- What conduct? They are assuming the man did what the child said he did. He may have done it, but they are not the judge and jury, or that is how it is suppose to be.
'The crown say that this was a vigilante group seeking revenge, seeking to gain entry to the deceased flat to cause him harm. He attempted to escape as a result of that unlawful conduct and in doing so he fell to his death.'
Jamie Watson, 32, Sarah Watson, 32, both of Hibernia Street; Katia Briercliffe, 36, Briercliffe Road; Paul McCarthy, 36 of Fernstead, Blackshaw Lane and Martin McMulkin, 37 of no fixed address all deny manslaughter.
The trial continues.