As explained by the Charleston Gazette this morning, new rules have been adopted for West Virginia appeals to the WV Supreme Court of Appeals, which will become effective in December of this year. This is a significant change for criminal defense in West Virginia. The Court will still be able to deny a criminal defendant’s appeal. However, from that point forward, the Court will have to give a reason for that denial.
Since 2004, it has been a concern of mine that persons convicted of sex crimes in West Virginia essentially will have no possibility of appeal. The problem is that the justices must campaign for election or reelection. In 2004 a justice lost his bid for reelection, mostly due to negative campaign advertising alleging that he freed a convicted sex offender (despite the fact that it was the correct decision legally – and despite the fact that there was obviously a majority consensus in that particular case since no justice can act alone). After that, what justice is going to want to reverse a conviction for any sex offense, regardless of what the correct legal decision is?
I’m not trying to protect child molesters. The fact is that “sex crimes” have turned into Salem witch hunts. The average person would be stunned at how many “sex crimes” there are. The small minority involve conduct which the average person would deem to be child molestation. The end result is that we have watered down the sex offender registry with individuals about whom people are generally not concerned. So when you actually have a child molester, it basically goes under the radar.
The average person would also be staggered at the volume of legislation and bureaucracy dealing with sex offender registration. It has taken over West Virginia’s criminal code, and is beginning to take over parole in West Virginia. Now, sex offenders will almost always qualify for “extended supervision” by WV parole officers. So if you are convicted of a sex offense, at the behest of the prosecutor, even after you serve your time you can be supervised (basically be on probation) for decades – in addition to already being required to register as a sex offender for life (the rules and intricacies of which would take about a week to explain). You can be forced to take polygraphs and wear an ankle bracelet.
We should be provided an accounting of how much taxpayer money is spent on the sex offender system. I bet it would be staggering. I would also like to know how many children it has saved from harm. Probably very few. Its like making schools “gun free” zones. It does nothing to accomplish its alleged purpose, and actually ends up doing more harm than good. Teachers or adult students cannot be armed to defend themselves and others. Likewise, parents will have no idea a real sex offender is in their neighborhood – because there are so damn many “sex offenders” that the truly dangerous ones get lost in the crowd.
Good people, who pose no threat to the public, can and have gotten caught up in this witch hunt. Politicians, nor judges, are willing to take a step back. This is a mob mentality. The “sex offender” brand rules – just like a witch. If you step into the way of one of these prosecutions, you are in support of child molesters – you are a witch, and you lose your seat, or lose your bench.
Of course, we don’t need career politicians anyways. Maybe judges, but not politicians. At least now there is a right to be told why a criminal appeal is being denied. Next, we need reform. Just like taxes should be cut, laws should be cut. Let’s stick to the basics. When we make everything a crime, we give corrupt or power hungry prosecutors the power to charge anyone for anything at anytime. Never a good idea. Some are just bad apples. The scary thing is, that bad prosecutors have a common trait: their will to win and avoid embarrassment is greater than their respect for justice. They will convict an innocent person to save face, or even to achieve personal retribution or revenge. And the ignorant electorate has no idea. They hear a radio ad touting how “tough on crime” the prosecutor is, and they vote for him. Elections are not won by promising to ease up on criminal prosecutions, or by promising leniency or mercy. Again, it’s a mob mentality. The WV Supreme Court should be completely insulated from the mob. Hopefully that will be a future reform.