David Beck-Brown - Writer - The Jessica's Law: one-strike laws are bad

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David Beck-Brown

  Political Cartoon by David Beck-Brown
(Political Cartoon by David Beck-Brown)

Jessica's Law: one-strike laws are bad

By David Beck-Brown
A New PATH, Newsletter, July 2006

The draconian three-strike law passed in 1994 has prepared Californians for one-strike legislation. Only one conviction will sentence a person to 15-25 to life in prison. It's possible to be falsely accused of a crime. This November’s ballot will have a one-strike provision in Jessica’s law. If someone wanted to harm you, they wouldn't even have to pull the trigger. It would be easier to accuse someone of child molestation. The "formula for a set up" is in Jessica's law, or any one-strike legislation.

Mistakes are made by district attorneys, chaplains, social workers, child psychologists, politicians and the rest of us. 

Child molesters are an easy crime to start one-strike legislation. Few people like child molesters, not even convicts who refer to them as "Chesters." Given the opportunity, a "regular" inmate will kill a Chester. One child molester was so badly choked his eyes were blood red; his throat purple and his face bloated. He survived. 

If Jessica’s Law is passed this November, anyone could get a life sentence for being successfully accused of committing a lewd act in the presence of a child. Even with no prior criminal history, a false accusation could get a person life in prison. This is a death sentence.

Earl Hansen got a 45 year prison sentence in Des Moines for child molestation. His wife Jean and her sister’s boy and girl made the false charges. Jean told the two kids they would be on The Peoples Court, a popular television show. Five years later the kids told a Social Worker about what happened. She in turn told her superior and eventually the word of Earl’s innocence got to the Governor of the state who released Earl from prison that very night. While in prison, Earl was attacked several times and scorched with hot coffee. He knew the other inmates wanted to kill him. He also knew he was innocent.    

In 1983, in Manhattan Beach, CA, the respected owners and teaching staff of the Mc Martin preschool were falsely accused of child molestation by a psychopathic woman. However, because of merely being accused of such a crime, the family business, headed by a grandmother, mother and son, was shut down. The son spent five years in jail before the charges were dropped. The public hysteria escalated and the family owned business was destroyed. The abuse perpetrated by the child-protection movement cost the community over $15 million dollars. 

Attorneys make mistakes. In 1991, Dale Akiki was prosecuted by the San Diego district attorney on charges of raping children, dunking them in feces-filled toilets, sodomizing them and forcing them to play naked, among other acts. At the time, Akiki was a 36 year old volunteer church baby-sitter. The false accusations were supported by professionally trained child psychologists.

While in jail, several inmates believed Akiki’s innocence and took the unusual act of protecting him from would be vigilantes. Many inmates were abused as children and will now do anything to protect children. They're hatred for child molesters runs deep. They know their children are on the streets unprotected. The Bloods, a predominately African-American gang, protected Akiki who is white. Crossing racial lines to protect a child molester in jail is unprecedented. However, the Bloods believed Akiki’s innocence and that he was being railroaded by the prosecution. They were right. The San Diego district attorney lost the case and Akiki was released from custody, winning a sizable out of court financial settlement. One-strike laws are a bad idea.

David Beck-Brown, Prison-Reform, A New PATH (Parents for Addiction Treatment and Healing).