Registered sex offenders and others who have been deemed a threat to children would be banned from schools, day care centers, churches, playgrounds, recreation parks and other places when children are present under legislation I filed today.
The Jessica Lunsford Restoration Act would prohibit individuals determined by the courts to pose a threat to children from property where regularly scheduled educational, recreational and social programs for youth take place or from within 300 feet of places intended primarily for the use, care and supervision of minors.
Most disturbingly, federal Judge James A Beaty, Jr. cited Attorney General Roy Cooper's failure to present evidence in his explanation (documented below). After this recent ruling from Judge Beaty, it became clear to me that we cannot count on Attorney General Cooper to defend the Jessica Lunsford Act and keep our children safe from dangerous sex offenders. That's why I drafted this legislation.
There is nothing more important than keeping our children safe and out of the reach of dangerous sex offenders and child abusers. If this bill protects even one child, it will be well worth it.
A federal court struck down the original Jessica Lunsford Act of 2009 in part because it applied to all registered sex offenders, regardless of whether their offense was against children or not. The new bill is narrowly tailored to apply only to those a court considers to be a threat to minors. The state is continuing to appeal the court’s ruling and will maintain the 2009 law if the ruling is overturned.
Jessica Lunsford was a nine-year-old girl originally from Gastonia who was abducted and brutally raped and murdered in Florida by a convicted sex offender in 2005.
Judge Beaty Criticized Cooper’s Strategy In Handling The Case
Questioning why his office failed to present better evidence to support his defense even after given the opportunity to do so:
- “…the attorney general offered nothing beyond anecdotal evidence of any connection between adult-victim offenders and future crimes against minors. Indeed, the attorney general’s office declined an express request by the court to offer expert testimony or statistical evidence on that connection—a development the federal judge described as “somewhat unexpected.” (Jamie Markham, "Federal Judge Enjoins 300-Foot Rule for Sex Offenders," UNC School of Government Criminal Law Blog, 4/28/2016)
- “The Court expressed to Defendants that their evidentiary showing up to that point was likely inadequate to carry the burden of showing that subsection (a)(2) furthers the state interest in protecting minors from sexual crimes without burdening substantially more speech than necessary, particularly as their showing related to adult-victim offenders.” (Memorandum Opinion and Order: Doe v. Cooper, 1:13-cv-00711-JAB-JLW, M.D. N.C., p. 7, filed 4/22/2016 [Judge Beaty, James A.])
- “Defendants stated that they would rely upon the evidence already presented, would not provide additional evidence” (Memorandum Opinion and Order: Doe v. Cooper, 1:13-cv-00711-JAB-JLW, M.D. N.C., p. 7, filed 4/22/2016 [Judge Beaty, James A.])
- “On this point, Defendant’s decision not to provide expert testimony or statistical reports to the Court was somewhat unexpected. Defendants stated at the status conference that it would not be difficult for from to find an expert to support their case. Yet, Defendants chose not to seek out an expert even after repeated inquiries from the Court regarding whether they desired to do so and after the Court expressly stated that it believed that Defendants’ evidentiary offering was inadequate to carry their burden in this case.” (p. 20, Memorandum Opinion and Order: Doe v. Cooper, 1-5 1:13-cv-00711-JAB-JLW, 2016 NC [Judge Beaty, James A.])