Matthew T. Mangino
GateHouse News Service
February 7, 2014
If Iowa lawmakers get their way, Kathlynn’s Law may soon be in place to protect Iowans from sexual predators. Fifteen-year-old Kathlynn Shepard was murdered last summer by a registered sex offender.
The killer, Michael Klunder, was sentenced in 1992 to up to 41 years in prison for kidnapping. According to the Des Moines Register, his time served behind bars was reduced to about 19 years under Iowa’s earned-time law. He was released without parole, which meant he wasn’t under any supervision in the community.
Kathlynn’s family is pushing for new legislation to deal with offenders like Klunder. Under the proposed legislation, the punishment for kidnapping would be increased to 25 years from 10 years if the victim is 15 or younger.
Supporting Kathlynn’s family at a recent legislative committee meeting was Brent King, whose daughter, Chelsea, was murdered four years ago after she was abducted while jogging in a San Diego park.
In 2010, California lawmakers approved Chelsea’s Law, which increases penalties, parole provisions and oversight for the worst of the worst sex offenders.
The list of laws named for victims goes on and on. One of first was the Jacob Wetterling Act. The law was named for 11-year-old Jacob Wetterling, who was abducted at gunpoint in Minnesota and never seen again. In 1994, the Jacob Wetterling Act established the first sex offender registry.
In 1996, Megan’s Law was enacted. The law was named for 7-year-old Megan Kanka, who was raped and murdered in New Jersey by a neighbor who was a convicted sex offender. Megan’s law expanded the Wetterling Act by requiring community notification in addition to a sex offender registry. All 50 states have enacted some form of Megan’s Law.
Then there is Brett’s Law, a Delaware law prohibiting the use of the herb Salvia Divinorum. The law was named after Brett Chidester, a teenager who committed suicide after using the herb.
In Florida there is Jessica’s Law. The law is named for 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford, who was abducted from her home. The law is designed to protect potential victims and reduce a sexual offender’s ability to re-offend.
Caylee’s Law is a law that makes it a felony for a parent who fails to report a missing child. The bill was introduced shortly after the high profile Casey Anthony trial, due to Anthony not reporting her 2-year-old daughter Caylee Marie Anthony missing for over a month.
There is even a Pamela’s Law, which was enacted based on a mistaken premise. New Jersey passed legislation in 2011 named for Pamela Schmidt, who was murdered by William Parisio Jr. He was suspected of being under the influence of MDPV, otherwise known as “bath salts.” It was later determined that Parisio was not under the influence of MDVP at the time of the murder.
Just this week in Pittsburgh, lawmakers are proposing Rocco’s Law. Rocco was a police dog killed in the line of duty. Legislators are looking at enhancing penalties for those responsible for the death of a police dog.
Each law is the result of a horrific case that generated traction through community outrage or the tireless work of the victim’s family, friends or supporters. The results are not always what are expected. Malcolm Gladwell, in his latest book, “David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants,” writes about Mike Reynolds. In 1992, Reynolds’ daughter was murdered in Fresno, Calif., by a man with a lengthy criminal history.
As a result of his daughter’s death, Reynolds rallied support for the adoption of “three strikes” legislation in California. In the years that followed, the state’s prison population doubled and homicide rates were cut in half. Reynolds liked to tell supports he reduced murders in California by six a day.
In 2012, sixty-eight percent of California voters agreed by referendum to scale back the three strikes law. Gladwell quoted criminologist Todd Clear, “If you lock up too many people too long, the collateral damage starts to outweigh the benefit.”
Matthew T. Mangino is of counsel with Luxenberg, Garbett, Kelly & George P.C. His book, “The Executioner’s Toll, 2010,” is due out this summer. You can reach him at www.mattmangino.com and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewTMangino.To read more Click Here