Georgia Supreme Court considers proportionality in sex offender case
The judge had only one option when he sentenced Cedric Bradshaw: life in prison. Bradshaw had not committed murder, rape or armed robbery. His offense was failing to properly register as a convicted sex offender for a second time — even though he had repeatedly tried to follow the law….
On Monday, the state’s highest court will consider whether the law is unconstitutional on grounds it is cruel and unusual punishment.
No other state calls for a life sentence for failing to register as a sex offender the second time, and even rape and armed robbery convictions in Georgia do not carry mandatory life terms, said Bradshaw’s lawyer, Robert L. Persse, the circuit public defender in Statesboro. “The punishment for a second violation is grossly disproportionate to the offense,” Persse said. “That is particularly true when this is essentially a paperwork offense not accompanied by aggravating circumstances like violence, sexual deviance or being out in a schoolyard hunting for children.”
The Bulloch DA’s office is urging the state Supreme Court to uphold the life term. “The courts look at the Legislature’s intent in determining the best evidence for the appropriateness of the sentence,” Assistant District Attorney W. Scott Brannen said. “When they increase it [to a life term], that too is evidence of the intent and the will of the people.”…
Brannen, the prosecutor, said the law is on the books and “it’s not my place or the court’s place to decide what we like and don’t like and what we want to enforce or not enforce.” Bradshaw, Brannen said, broke the law by failing to give a valid address within the 72-hour reporting deadline. “There are no exceptions in the law,” he said.
Sentencing Law and Policy wonders doesn’t Kennedy suggest life in prison for failing to register is unconstitutional?
I am not sure what I find more remarkable: the fact that Georgia punishes this regulatory offense with a mandatory life term, or the fact that in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Kennedy ruling the defendant here could have sexually molested and beaten a dozen children without facing a harsher sentence.
As regular readers know, I have long been troubled that the U.S. Supreme Court’s eagerness to hyper-regulate the reach of the death penalty through the Eighth Amendment has not extended to regulating extreme prison terms for relatively minor crimes. The Georgia high court has previously shown the courage and wisdom to do something about a seemingly crazy prison sentence, and this would seem to be another case calling out for some remedy.
Read the whole AJC story. The facts are pretty darned sad. Barely more than a child himself at 19, Bradshaw was charged with statutory rape for having sex with a 15-year-old girl. Fine. That’s punishable. I’d prefer it had been kept out of the criminal justice system (see here for more) but its punishable. He gets 5 years.
After he gets out he gives an invalid address. For that, too, he pleads guilty and is sentenced to time served. When released he moves in with his sister but can’t live there because Georgia’s draconian sex offender law won’t let him live within 1,000 feet of a recreation center!
He moves in with an aunt but can’t stay there because the home is within 1,000 feet of the First Baptist Church! Growing desperate, he finds a family friend but this time inadvertently transposes the street address!
Now the cops move in. Bradshaw is arrested because he hadn’t moved into the friend’s single-wide trailer within the legally required 72 hours — and lied and said he did! His mandatory sentence for this infraction is life in prison.
This is not proportional punishment! This is sex offender hysteria gussied up as protecting children. And it’s great big a waste of tax payer money.