Much more than 5 years deserved

Published 7:53 pm Sunday, July 27, 2008

The recent sentencing of a Plantersville man to 20 year with five to serve for a second sex crime brings up a plethora of issues.

Let us point out very quickly that the man, Joe Earl Edwards, pleaded guilty to enticing a child for immoral purpose and not for rape or sexual battery. He is a registered sex offender since his initial conviction of sexual abuse first degree of a 10-year-old victim.

While he did not physically hurt his latest victim, certainly his actions had an effect on her well-being emotionally. After all, the court records reveal he confessed to pulling up at a school bus stop and asking this girl if she wanted to date.

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The child took off and ran to her house and the safety of her mother.

The point here is that this is Edwards’s second conviction of a sex-related crime. The judge also ordered him to undergo treatment.

The issue of treatment raises more questions that even the American Psychological Association has yet to answer. In an article in Monitor, the APA’s magazine, the questions are raised over and over. The latest data emerged in Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment (Vol. 14, No. 2) in 2002, giving hope when it showed for the first time a difference between recidivism rates for sex offenders who receive treatment and those who don’t.

Still there are other questions. Nobody has a definitive solution.

Certainly, though, law should not go to the extreme for sex offenders who rape a child. We agree with the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision of not to allow the death penalty for child rape. In particular, this reasoning seems appropriate from the decision last month:

“It is not at all evident that the child rape victim’s hurt is lessened when the law permits the perpetrator’s death, given that capital cases require a long-term commitment by those testifying for the prosecution. Society’s desire to inflict death for child rape by enlisting the child victim to assist it over the course of years in asking for capital punishment forces a moral choice on the child, who is not of mature age to make that choice. There are also relevant systemic concerns in prosecuting child rape, including the documented problem of unreliable, induced, and even imagined child testimony, which creates a “special risk of wrongful execution” in some cases.”

But even the Court has overlooked some information in its June ruling, Patrick Kennedy vs. Louisiana, noting the absence of any federal law imposing a death penalty for child rape. Actually, a military law expert found the 2006 law by Congress authorized the death penalty for rape of a child under military law applicable to members of the military services. In strict interpretation, that would constitute a federal law.

Louisiana has asked for a rehearing in the case. The Court is expected to decide on the rehearing this week.

This is not to say Edwards deserves the death penalty. However, in our opinion, he should serve much more than 5 years, even for enticement.