Unit 1012 Cover Photo

Unit 1012 Cover Photo

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

JESSICA’S LAW [IN LOVING MEMORY OF JESSICA LUNSFORD (OCTOBER 6, 1995 TO FEBRUARY 27, 2005)]


            Let us not forget Jessica Lunsford who was murdered by John Couey on this day, February 27, 2005. There is some justice for her, as the killer died of anal cancer on September 30, 2009. I will blog about her and the new law from Wikipedia.


Jessica Lunsford was last seen alive on the afternoon of Feb. 23, 2005. Her grandparents picked her up from the school bus stop in Homosassa, Fla. On the way home, they stopped at a Sonic restaurant to buy curly fries for Jessica before she went to Bible class. Family friend Sharon Armstrong brought her home that evening, and she watched television until her grandmother tucked her into bed at 9 p.m. (SOURCE: http://www.trutv.com/library/crime/photogallery/jessica-lunsford-trial.html)

Born
Jessica Marie Lunsford
October 6, 1995
Gastonia, North Carolina, U.S.
Died
February 27, 2005 (aged 9)
Homosassa, Florida, U.S.
Relatives
Joshua Lunsford (brother)

Jessica Marie Lunsford (October 6, 1995 – February 27, 2005) was a nine-year-old American girl who was abducted from her home in Homosassa, Florida in the early morning of February 24, 2005. Believed held captive over the weekend, she was raped and later murdered by 46-year-old John Couey who lived nearby. The media covered the investigation and trial of her killer extensively. On August 24, 2007, a judge in Inverness, Florida sentenced Couey, a convicted sex offender, to death for kidnapping, sexually battering, and first degree murder of Jessica.

(SOURCE: http://www.myspace.com/heartofachild12/photos/8890096)
Abduction, rape and murder
Couey stated in an audio/videotaped confession that he had abducted, raped, and murdered Jessica Lunsford. A judge ruled on June 30, 2006 that Couey's confession was inadmissible in court because when it was recorded police had not granted Couey's requests for a lawyer, thereby rendering the confession invalid and unreliable under the Fifth and Sixth Amendments. Over Couey's objection, the trial court ruled that all evidence collected after the confession, including the recovery of Lunsford's body, would be admitted, as would incriminating statements allegedly made by Couey to investigators and a jail guard.

Couey's confession
In his confession Couey said that he entered Lunsford's house through an unlocked door at about three o'clock in the morning, awakened Lunsford, told her "Don't yell or nothing", and told her to follow him out of the house. He occupied a trailer along with two women, some 100 yards (91 m) away, at the time of Lunsford's abduction. He admitted in a videotaped and recorded deposition to raping Lunsford in his bedroom. Lunsford was kept in Couey's bed that evening, where he raped her again in the morning. Couey put her in his closet and ordered her to remain there, which she did as he reported for work at "Billy's Truck Lot". Three days after he abducted her, Couey tricked Jessica into getting into two garbage bags by saying he was going to 'take her home'. He instead buried her alive as he decided he could do nothing else with the girl. He said he 'Didn't want people seeing him and Lunsford across the street.'

On March 19, 2005, the police found Lunsford's body at a residence located on West Sparrow Court, buried in a hole approximately 2½' deep and 2' circular, covered with leaves. The body was removed from the ground and transported to the coroner's office. Her body had undergone "moderate" to "severe" decomposition and according to the publicly released autopsy reports was skeletonized on two fingers that Lunsford had poked through the bags before suffocating to death. The coroner ruled that death would have happened even in best circumstances within 2–3 minutes from lack of oxygen.

Arrest of John Couey
After approximately three weeks of intense searching for Lunsford around the area of her home, John Couey, age 46, was arrested in Savannah, Georgia for an outstanding warrant of cannabis possession, but he was released after questioning because it was only a local warrant. He was later arrested in Augusta, Georgia. On March 18, 2005, Couey confessed to having kidnapped and murdered Lunsford. On March 19, 2005 police found Lunsford's body. On March 7, 2007, Couey was found guilty in Florida of all charges in relation to Lunsford's death, including first degree murder, kidnapping, and capital sexual battery. On March 14, 2007, the jury recommended the death penalty. The case was appealed to the Florida Supreme Court. Couey continued to maintain that he was innocent until his death in September 2009.

Death of John Couey
On August 24, 2007, Couey was sentenced to death, in addition to three consecutive life sentences. However, on September 30, 2009, before the sentences could be carried out, Couey died from anal cancer.

Jessica Lunsford Act
Following her death, her father, Mark Lunsford, pursued new legislation to provide more stringent tracking of released sex offenders. The Jessica Lunsford Act was named after her. It requires tighter restrictions on sex offenders (such as wearing electronic tracking devices) and increased prison sentences for some convicted sex offenders. "Jessica's Law" refers to similar reform acts initiated by other states.

Wrongful death and negligence lawsuit
On February 19, 2008, almost three years to the day after her kidnapping and murder, Jessica's father was represented by Jacksonville, Florida lawyers in a pre-trial brief filed against the Citrus County Sheriff's Office and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. After receiving notice of the pending suit, Citrus County Sheriff Jeff Dawsy stated that he believed the case to be "baseless... There is only one person in the world that should be held responsible for Jessica Lunsford's death and that's John Couey."

Following complaints and suggestions from Citrus County residents that the pending litigation was being pursued out of greed and that had he been a better father his child may still be alive, Mark Lunsford and Jacksonville-based attorneys Eric Block and Mark Gelman held a news conference in Jacksonville, where it was stated that the pending litigation was "not for the money... but for change." Lunsford stated that changes were needed in procedures and policies. It is alleged that Couey had Jessica Lunsford alive in the trailer while Citrus County officials visited the trailer, that police dogs indicated Jessica was being held in the direction of the trailer and were ignored, that Citrus County officials actively pursued Mark Lunsford's father as their prime suspect while evidence pointed elsewhere, and that had Citrus County officials followed up on an outstanding warrant issued by Georgia, that Citrus County officials could have entered Couey's residence and possibly saved the child.

Documentary film
Main article: Jessie's Dad
Mark Lunsford's transformation to a child activist after the murder of his daughter Jessica is the subject of the 2011 documentary film, Jessie's Dad.


Published: September 30, 2009
Updated: October 01, 2009 - 2:50 AM

Jessica Lunsford's killer, John Couey, dies of cancer

By Keith Morelli 


Staff file photo (2007)
Couey was on death row at the Florida State Prison near Starke until Aug. 12, when medical personnel there sent him to Jacksonville Memorial Hospital.
News of the death of John Evander Couey, condemned to die for killing 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford in a case that sparked legislation across the nation clamping down on sex offenders, was met with mixed - but strong - emotions Wednesday.

"God done this in his own time," said Ruthie Lunsford, Jessica's grandmother, who said Couey's death Wednesday morning from anal cancer came as a surprise. "I am not crying."

Her husband, Archie, said his emotions were torn between vengeance and his religious beliefs.

"Death is always sad to me," the 76-year-old grandfather said. "I'm just glad that it's over with. We never got to see him put to death. But we wouldn't have lived that long. No way."

Jessica's father, Mark Lunsford, took a long motorcycle ride to reflect on the day's events. He said he wanted Couey to die from lethal injection.

"My daughter's murderer died today," Lunsford said Wednesday evening. "And it wasn't by our hands. ... John Couey got off easy."

He said he had not been aware that Couey had cancer.

"Cancer is an awful disease," Lunsford said. "Today, it's a good disease."

The prosecutor in the case, Pete Magrino, said he was relieved to hear the news.

"It matters not to me how he died, just that he's dead and he won't be able to victimize anyone ever again."

The Lunsfords endured years of investigation and a lengthy trial ending with a conviction and death sentence for their neighbor, who abducted the child, raped her and killed her in 2005.

Now, it appears that grief seemingly perpetuated for four years by a methodical but at times frustrating legal system may be alleviated - at least as much as it can be for surviving relatives of a young girl who died with such brutality.

According to prosecutors, Jessica - her parents always called her Jessie - was abducted from her home in the middle of the night in February 2005.

Couey kept her in the closet of his nearby mobile home and sexually molested her before binding her wrists and ankles with speaker wire, stuffing her inside two black plastic garbage bags and burying her alive in a 4-foot-deep hole.

Couey, 51, was on death row at the Florida State Prison near Starke until Aug. 12, when medical personnel there sent him to Jacksonville Memorial Hospital, which has a contract with the Florida Department of Corrections to treat inmates when prison doctors can't. He died at 11:15 a.m. Wednesday, corrections spokeswoman Gretl Plessinger said.

She said that during Couey's two years in the prison, he never had a single visitor.

A date for Couey's execution had never been set.

Citrus County Sheriff Jeff Dawsy became intimately involved with the case and often appeared with Lunsford lobbying for stricter sex offender laws.

"I know (Couey) didn't suffer the way Jessie did when he killed her," Dawsy said in a statement released Wednesday evening. "I'm sorry I won't get to look him in the eyes as he died, but I'm relieved to know he'll never hurt another child again."

Couey had been convicted of a sex offense years earlier, but no one in the neighborhood knew about it at the time. He even did some work at the elementary school Jessica attended.

In the years that followed Jessica's death, Mark Lundsford focused on the passage of "Jessie's Law," lobbying across the nation for more stringent restrictions on convicted sex offenders. Florida was the first state to pass the law, and within two years of her death, more than 20 other states followed.

The Jessica Marie Lunsford Act, passed by the Florida Legislature in May 2005, requires school districts to do background checks on contractors and vendors who may come in contact with children.

The law also requires sex offenders to register in person every six months.

 


Jessica's Law is the informal name given to a 2005 Florida law, as well as laws in several other states, designed to protect potential victims and reduce a sexual offender's ability to re-offend. A version of Jessica's Law, known as the Jessica Lunsford Act, was introduced at the federal level in 2005 but was never enacted into law by Congress.

The name is also used by the media to designate all legislation and potential legislation in other states modeled after the Florida law. Forty-two states have introduced such legislation since Florida's law was passed.

The law is named after Jessica Lunsford, a young Florida girl who was sexually battered and murdered in February 2005 by John Couey, a previously convicted sex offender. Public outrage over this case spurred Florida officials to introduce this legislation. Among the key provisions of the law was classifying lewd or lascivious molestation on a person under the age of 12 as a life felony, and a mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years in prison. and lifetime electronic monitoring of adults convicted of lewd or lascivious molestation against a victim less than 12 years old. The statute almost requires that if an offender is sentenced to a term of years, he or she must be given lifetime probation following the imprisonment. In Florida, another charge, capital sexual battery is defined as: A person 18 years of age or older who commits sexual battery upon, or in an attempt to commit sexual battery injures the sexual organs of, a person less than 12 years of age commits a capital felony. The charge carries a mandatory life sentence.



Jessica Lunsford Act

The Jessica Lunsford Act (H.R. 1505 of the 109th Congress), was a proposed federal law in the United States — modeled after the Florida state law — which, if adopted, would have mandated more stringent tracking of released sex offenders.

Bill objectives
The bill, if passed, would have greatly reduced federal grant money under the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 (42 U.S.C. § 14071) and Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 (42 U.S.C. § 3765) to any U.S. State that failed to conform its sex offender registration laws to the following:
  • Sex offenders would have been required to wear Global Positioning System devices on their ankles for five years following their release from prison, or for life for those deemed sexual predators, to better enable law enforcement personnel to track their whereabouts. The costs of tracking and monitoring offenders would have been absorbed by each State.
  • States would have been required to mail sex offender registration forms at least twice per year, at random times, to verify registrants' addresses. Any registrants who did not respond within 10 days would have to be considered non-compliant.
The bill was introduced by U.S. Republican Congresswoman Ginny Brown-Waite from Florida on April 6, 2005. It had 107 cosponsors and was referred to a subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee, but it was never voted upon (either by any committee or the full Congress), and it died when the 109th Congress finally adjourned.


Controversy and criticism
Mark Lunsford (Jessica's father) has been traveling around the country asking for tougher laws and longer sentences on sex offenders but when his own son, 18 year old Joshua Lunsford, sexually assaulted a 14 year old he pleaded for leniency. He was charged with 2 felony sex crimes but pleaded to 1 misdemeanor with no sex offender registry or Jessica's law.

Some controversy exists regarding how a person becomes labeled as a sex offender. Most Americans believe that the registry lists convicted child molesters when in actuality, some offenders listed on the Registries have been convicted of non-violent offenses, which involve no visible victim or no physical contact. An example of such would include online talk with an undercover police officer posing as an underage minor. Teenagers involved in a consensual sexual relationship, known as "Romeo and Juliet" relationships, with the male or female partner considered underage in the eyes of the law, may also be listed as sex offenders on the nation's registries. However, they would not be affected by a Jessica's Law such as the one in Florida, since such laws only apply to adults who have committed offenses with victims under the age of 12. Most charged persons lack adequate funding for a legal defense to fight such charges. The result is a plea bargain, which in some states, is followed by automatic sexual-offender registration regardless of judicial discretion, such as decreed by Florida Statute 943.0436. In addition there is little or no evidence that restrictions on where sex offenders may live has any effect on reducing sexual crimes.

Another problem with this law is that many offenses occur in the homes of victims. If an offender wishes to molest a stranger, he would have no hesitation to travel a couple of miles or a couple of hundred miles to meet a victim. For example, the Lexington Herald-Leader reported that a predator drove from Eastern Kentucky to Louisville to meet a child on the same day that Kentucky passed a law restricting sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of a school, childcare facility, ball field, or playground. The restrictions on residency in most of Jessica's laws serve mainly to make the public feel good about something to which no one can object and to give politicians the impression that they care about children. In fact, these laws do little or nothing to protect children.

Registration is for 20 years to life, requiring psychological therapy with a wide range of evaluation and treatment for the sex offender. That determine the risk to re-offend, amenability for outpatient treatment and specific treatment and supervision needs, psychosexual evaluation conducted according to the guidelines of the Association for Treatment of Sexual Abusers (ATSA). Evaluations include a review of criminal records/victim statements, a battery of psychological tests, clinical interviews (conducted over a series of appointments to help the offender overcome denial) and psycho-physiologic sexual arousal patterns involving penile phallometry(PPG) testing for sexual offenders that is typically used to determine the level of sexual arousal as the subject is exposed to sexually suggestive content, such as pictures, movies or audio. It has been demonstrated by most studies to be the most accurate method of identifying which sexual offenders will go on to commit sexual crimes against children, although there are clinicians who have noted that this does not mean the test is appropriate for the evaluation of sexual preferences or treatment effects. The penile phallometry (PPG) is a highly controversial and invasive procedure in itself. Advocates against such legislation believe politicians have run unchecked with this issue, due to guaranteed press coverage, easy votes and the guarantee of federal funding for law enforcement with the passage of one new sex offender law annually. An overhaul of the nation's registries through the incorporation of a tier level system is advocated as a method which would allow the public to more accurately determine the risk of a registered offender living in their neighborhood while allowing law enforcement to more effectively supervise those considered truly dangerous not only to children but also to other potential victims.


Constitutionality
The constitutionality of various versions of Jessica's Law are sometimes criticized by the courts; some of these challenges are attracting support from law enforcement agencies, parole boards, and mental health professionals tasked with the treatment of sexual offenders.

Impact on offender's family members
Advocates for convicted sex offenders claim that the civil rights of convicted persons and their non-offending family members is forever affected, long after the punishment has ended. Internet publication of sex offenders home addresses continues to be upheld by the court in the name of public safety, although April 2006 vigilante type murders in Maine have brought new concerns of misuse of the registry and for the safety of nonoffending family members by private parties. Missouri civil rights attorney Arthur Benson currently waits decision from the Missouri Supreme Court regarding the Sex Offenders Registration Act SORA Litigation, Jane Doe I, et al. v. Thomas Phillips et al. which "contends the act violates substantive due process rights and equal protection rights because it infringes on fundamental liberty rights, imposes a lifetime stigma, has no express purpose and, even if it serves a compelling interest, is not narrowly tailored or rationally related to that interest. They assert that, if the act is deemed to be criminal in nature, it violates the prohibition against ex post facto laws because it imposes an additional punishment, thereby altering the consequences for a crime for which they already have been sentenced."


John Walsh of America's Most Wanted and Bill O'Reilly of The O'Reilly Factor have been vocal proponents of Jessica's Law, arguing that children have to be protected and that child sex offenders have to be held to a much higher standard. O'Reilly points out that the states of Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, New York, New Jersey and Vermont have shown reluctance and refused to pass a Jessica's Law in their respective state legislatures. He claims that Utah, North Carolina and New Mexico are inconclusive while all other states are either moving in the direction of passing a Jessica's Law or have already passed some form of it. North Carolina passed the Jessica Lunsford Act in 2008.

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