Innocence Is No Defense Against Virginia's Sex Offender Registry

Five years ago, at the urging of his parents, who worried that he could be tried as an adult and receive a long prison sentence,15-year-old Edgar Coker Jr. pleaded guilty to raping a 14-year-old friend. Two months later, the girl admitted that the sex was consensual and that she had lied to avoid trouble with her father. The Washington Post reports that Coker nevertheless ended up serving 17 months in juvenile detention and is still listed as a violent sex offender by the state of Virginia:

Last month, Coker, now 20, was arrested during a Friday night football game at the Orange, Va., high school he graduated from after his release from juvenile prison. Unless they have permission from the school, convicted violent sex offenders are not permitted on school grounds. But Coker had received such permission, and he attended school there for more than a year before graduation....

The family has moved several times, twice because of complaints from neighbors who learned that Edgar Coker Jr. was on the registry. Once, a neighborhood girl made a false sexual allegation against one of his brothers, and someone else left this note on their door when they lived in Stafford County: “We don't want a rapist living in our neighborhood.”

Seeking to remove this stigma, Coker's family argues that his legal representation was inadequate. But as the Post notes, "Undoing what’s been done is difficult. Coker’s attorneys are aware of very few instances of a person’s name being removed from the state’s sex-offender registry."

I discuss the wide net cast by sex offender registries in the July issue of Reason.

[via Radley Balko's Twitter feed]

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  • ||

    Two months later, the girl admitted that the sex was consensual and that she had lied to avoid trouble with her father.

    And she didn't go to jail for perjury why? Sex offender registries are just our society's real life scape goat. The term "scape goat" comes from the goat the Jews used to sacrifice to God as an atonement for the entire communities' sins.

    This society sexualizes children to the extreme. To atone for this sin, they put 15 year old kids on registries for the rest of their lives.

  • Sparky||

    Cuz ever'body loves them a good hangin'. Once you're on THE LIST, that's where you stay. Everyone knows you don't get on THE LIST unless you belong on THE LIST.

    Also, scapegoat is one word.

  • Sparky||

    Plus, in case you didn't notice, he's black in Virgina. You would think that alone would be enough to keep him locked up forever.

  • Britt||

    You mean the Virginia that was the first state to elect a black governor?

  • Abdul||

    Why'd Virginia elect a woman-crazed negro? Was he running against a jew?

  • Mykeru||

    He's black in Virginia? Would he be a different color elsewhere?

    /ambiguity snark

  • KB||

    Your ignorant racist comment is enough to get you locked up forever. Grow the fuck up and realize that the only reason our system is so fucked up in the U.S. is because people like you -Sparky- are overbearing dick heads who will live and die offering nothing to this world accept regret from the person who gave you the job or the money to get access to a computer to type that shit when you should have been sold the day you were born

  • ||

    ""And she didn't go to jail for perjury why?""

    Even if she did, that wouldn't get Coker off the list. While the punishment for her would be good. It does nothing to undo the damage.

  • Coeus||

    And she didn't go to jail for perjury why?

    Because women never lie about rape. In fact, I was reading some statistics the other day on femministing. They claimed that false reporting for rape was actually lower than for other crimes. Their proof? The astonishingly low rate of perjury convictions and charges for filing false police reports.

  • ||

    Rape is obviously a real and heinous offense. But the problem with it is that a perfectly consensual act can become a criminal one simply by one party lying about whether it was consensual. Most other serious crimes--say, murder--require much more conclusive evidence.

  • RoboCain||

    There are at least three reasons for that:

    1. Women are far less likely to be suspected, prosecuted and convicted of anything, and often receive sympathy for all sorts lame excuses for their crimes.

    2. Many people believe that charging false accusers will somehow deter real victims from coming forward.

    3. When police realize that a rape claim is false they often choose to dismiss it quietly.

  • Coeus||

    I know. I just find it funny that they'll scream about under-reporting of rapes till they're blue in the face, but they quote those stats as gospel.

  • Amakudari||

    Yeah, in case anyone's wondering what feminists think should happen to a person who falsely accuses another -- generally a man "of color" -- and has him sent to prison for decades where he may get raped and on release has to notify everyone around him, including neighbors and potential employers, that he's a violent sexual deviant, well, she might need counseling:

    How do we stop fighting over which is worse – false accusations or rape? To all those who argue the first, I’m willing to say right now – I agree false accusations are serious. They hurt everyone, and unfortunately, they are most often made by those that seem to be in need of counseling to begin with. ... If I can agree false accusations are serious on its own scale, why can’t you agree that rape is serious on an even more frightening scale, and in an even more traumatic way?

    Needless to say, it is incredibly, unbelievably, mind-numbingly frustrating.
  • ||

    Yeah, locking an innocent man up in prison for years where he may actually be raped himself is much less serious than rape.

  • ||

    Let me take a wild guess: The"sex offender" is black. The lying cunt who didn't want to get beat by Daddy for fucking a nigger is white.

    I know how thing work in Virginia. We should be thankful they don't practice honor killings.

  • ||

    I guess the only recourse for Coker is to sue her in civil court for the pain and suffering, and there will be much of that.

  • ||

    God forbid a governor ever do the right thing and pardon the kid.

  • ||

    Yeah. Maybe he will (not holding breath). But the law needs to be fix. God forbid a governor take the lead.

  • ||

    You have to understand the low quality of person that the position of state representative attracts. The position doesn't pay much. And it requires months of your time. So anyone with a job or a successful business can't hold it. State legislatures really are filled with the worst sorts of political creatures.

  • Sparky||

    State politicians see the problem being the position doesn't pay much. Most people should see the problem being it takes months of your time.

  • ||

    I have an acquaintance who ditched the state house for the senate because the house paid less than it cost him to hold office.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    We are all mashers now.

  • Shana Rowan||

    Excellent, quick article manages to report actual events that demonstrate better than I could have worded, all the things wrong with SO legislation.

  • ||

    The solution: Abolish the registries.

    No person has a "right" to know whether their neighbor likes little boys or girls. NOT. IN. A. FREE. SOCIETY.

  • cynical||

    You're the worst troll ever.

  • Brendan Perez||

    (SORRY FOR THE WALL OF TEXT)

    I was told by all the law-and-order types that we need to amend the laws to try juveniles as adults more often for more offenses. This is due to the "fact" that juvenile offenses are sealed and their slate wiped clean when they turn 18.

    Anyway, back to the real world.

    He'd have been better off in some ways in adult court with a jury.

    It's good to know that he pled guilty in juvenile court to avoid being tried as an adult and now has lifelong registration requirements no different then an adult found guilty after a jury trial. At 15 in most states, the juvenile court could have imposed a 10-15 year sentence not that different then the adult court.

    I have as serious internal conflict in how I view the justice system as it applies to juveniles.

    On one hand, I don't think anyone under 18 should be tried as an adult for any offense due to the fact that no one under 18 can vote for president or serve on a jury for any reason. Ie., with accountability and responsibility should come rights and privileges and vice versa.

    If teens are to be held to a reduced standard of right/privileges based solely on their age and its use as a proxy for maturity, mental development, etc., then their level of accountability should also be reduced due to those exact same reason.

    If Congress and/or certain states had gotten their way, a 15 year old would be legally prohibited from buying a violent video game or R-Rated movie because he's not mature enough to handle the content and/or he's not mentally developed enough to NOT do imitate in real life what he sees in the game. BUT, should that 15 year old do in real life what he saw in the game, he could easily be tried as an adult on the basis that he knew better or knew right from wrong, etc.

    There seem to be two groups of people:one group that believes a 15 year old should treated as a child and denied the ability to purchase a violent video, and another group that believes a 15 year old who imitates a violent video game should be tried as an adult because they knew better.
    --Actually I lied. Practically speaking, there really aren't two groups; the overlap between the two is enormous.

    On the other hand, I think teens get an extremely raw deal in juvenile courts.

    Very few, if any, states have a juvenile court whose jurisdiction over convicted teens ends when the defendant turns 18 or even 21. Due to myths and exaggerated truths about the juvenile justice system, most states expanded their juvenile courts to allow teen defendants to be sentenced to juvenile 'prisons' until 25 or even 30. Multiple states impose lifelong prohibition on firearm ownership due to juvenile offenses, like Pennsylvania where a charge of unlawfully possessing a firearm as minor will cause a person to be denied the ability to possess a firearm as an adult.

    All states have, to some degree, turned their juvenile justice systems into copies of their adult justice systems, including the prison environment and diminished emphasis on rehabilitation. The real differences are the inmates are younger and there's no trial by jury.

    Court cases in the 1900s on embraced the concept of juvenile justice systems, and upheld as constitutional, their lesser standards of due process and lack of jury trials on the basis that the juvenile justice systems were more corrective and rehabilitative and not as punitive as adult justice systems. There are also mentions in past court cases and more modern political defenses of the juvenile justice system, that the whole process was designed to give juvenile offenders a second chance by not having a record that followed them into a adulthood.

    Since the emphasis on corrective and rehabilitative treatment has been all but eliminated, and a juvenile record can follow a defendant well into adulthood and sometimes their entire life, the lesser (relative to adults) standards of due process and court procedure are no longer justified.

    So there's my conflict:I don't think they should be tried as adults nor do I think they should be tried as juveniles under the current system.

    The adult system holds them to a level of accountability equal to adults using justifications/reasons that directly undermine the reasons given for denying them a level of rights and privileges equal to adults.

    The juvenile justice system can hold them almost as accountable as an adult in terms of a record that follows them, can hold the juvenile until they are 25 or 30 in a punitive, more adult-prison like environment, yet denies them due process and procedural rights that are considered basic and without question for adults.

    Any court that treated adults the way juveniles are treated in juvenile court would be mocked as a kangaroo court and decried as a human rights violation if done to people in other countries.

    In the end, juveniles accused of crimes get (or at stand an excellent chance of getting) a severely raw deal irrespective of the court they're tried in.

    One solution-a mandated sentence that is reduced for juveniles convicted by the jury they have a protected right to just like adults. It's probably too much to ask that get a jury of their peers or close just like adults.

  • ||

    Sex offender registries are an affront to the principles set forth in the Declaration of Independence.

    A judge, presented with a motion to remove a particular registrant from the sex offender registry and to permanently abolish sex offender registries, should grant the same citing the incompatibility of sex offender registries with the Declaration of Independence, in particular, and First Principles, in general.

    Of course, the judge could cite the lack of authority granted to his state's legislature to creat sex offender registries in said state's original constitution as no state's original constitution contained any explicit grant of such power.

    The judge could also cite the intellectual fraud and flabbiness and flaccidity of the propostion that constitutions can't possibly contain all of the specific grants of power to a legislature. Stupider than stupid that proposition.

  • Alan Kellogg||

    Under what law is an innocent man forced to register as a sex offender?

  • Mr. Mark||

    I'm just thankful that I don't have to burden my neighbors with unnecessary worries regarding those 13 counts of murder for that night with the axe when I got a little late with renewing my prescription and had another episode. Thankfully, I'm much better now and since there's no murder registry...

  • Brendan Perez||

    Indeed.

    If a person is convicted of child abuse for beating their child and serves probation, does some counseling, then later beats up a neighbor kid and does a year, later slaps some kid in a store and does a few months and serves probation, then beats their newborn to death and does 4-6 after pleading to involuntary manslaughter, they will only have to register as a felon. No physical offender register, no child battery lists passed out around the neighborhood, nothing.

    Now that guy across the street who had sex with his 14 year old girlfriend when he was 15, and the guy down the way who streaked his high school football game, and that 22 year old got who drunk and peed out a car window, they're on on a sex offender list for life along with people who forcibly raped others, kidnapped and raped 5 year olds, forced child relatives to perform sex acts on film, etc.

    I wonder why we're fucked up as country.

    I loved reading this interview from the late 90s where people were pissed off when Star Trek DS9 had a lesbian kiss and when asked if they would have had problem with one of the women shooting the other, they replied no.

    The sex offender registry and it's broad reach combined with zero interest in any violent offender registry is just a reflection of our society's general bizarre, puritan views regarding sex and our nonchalant attitudes towards extreme violence.

    Even a serial killer who gets out doesn't have to register or keep X number of feet away from schools, etc., even if they only killed schoolchildren leaving school.

  • Coeus||

    I've got an easy solution to most of the "age of consent" problems. The age of consent is the same as the age of the youngest person your state has tried as an adult, with a 3-year *so-called "Romeo and Juliet Clause".

    *so-called because in the original, their ages were closer to 20 years apart than 3.

  • otherhmm||

    I like my old idea better:

    Alleged "victim" may at any time create a notarized letter commanding the court to drop the charges, and they must comply. Also, enabling them to have defendant released if they have already been tried and convicted of statutory rape and have them removed from any registries.

    Or enable the person sign papers at the courthouse freeing defendant from further prosecution in any sex crimes against said person as well as above said release/removal from registry for said crime.

    State should provide assistance in filling out any paper work needed.
    otherhmm|8.2.10 @ 6:11AM|#

    also.. expungement
    otherhmm|8.2.10 @ 6:49AM|#

    If you are emotionally mature enough to request the court to not prosecute the defendant in writing then I'd say you are emotionally mature enough to consent to sex.
    otherhmm|8.2.10 @ 6:57AM|#

    Also a 3 year clause still isn't large enough of a "romeo and juliet" clause. Because people really do vary a lot in maturity and it isn't based totally on age. I've met 40 year olds less mature than some 13 year olds.

  • Coeus||

    It's good, but it doesn't address the other half of the coin. Trying kids as adults. The biggest problem with both age of consent laws and trying kids as adults is people's instinctive bias. This balances them out. If you really want that 13 year old tried as an adult, you'd better be ready to have open season declared on your 13 year old daughter. It balances people's protective and authoritian impluses against each other. The romeo and juliet clause part could be extended or removed depending on where the individual states land on the issue. This isn't a liberterian solution, of course, but I find it workable, and definately better than what we have now.

  • ||

    And the sad thing is the VIRGINIA DA's office is FIGHTING this case. Whatever happened to their responsibility to serve JUSTICE. The prosecutors should be going to court with him and asking the court to right this wrong. No wonder people don't respect the legal system.

  • Abdul||

    I saw this in the Sunday Post. Even after a number of high-profile cases which turned on flawed confessions that were proven false later, courts typically have limited power to handle these situations.

    Trial courts admit facts. In the case of guilty pleas, there is a long colloquy that is aimed at getting offenders to realize what they are committing to.

    Appellate courts have limited legal grounds for over-turning a lower court when the proof of factual innocence was not before the trial court.

    The legislature could pass laws that make such appeals easier. Typically, however, because so many frivolous coram nobis and habeas petitions clog our courtrooms, the legislature is not really willing to do much.

  • Coeus||

    Appellate courts have limited legal grounds for over-turning a lower court when the proof of factual innocence was not before the trial court.

    The legislature could pass laws that make such appeals easier.

    I've always taken this little factoid as further evidence that we don't actually have a "Justice System" in this country. My dad first explained it to me when I was 8 and I thought it was stupid even then.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    Here is a famous article about the parallels between plea-bargains and judicial torture. I haven't read it, but it's famous among aficionados:

    Torture and Plea Bargaining
    John H. Langbein
    The University of Chicago Law Review
    Vol. 46, No. 1 (Autumn, 1978), pp. 3-22

    Once you plead guilty - even if for all practical purposes you've been coerced by the threat of a much longer sentence - then technicalities like a full recantation from the accuser don't necessarily upset the conviction.

  • Yeah||

    Time for men to get their fucking balls back and stand up to these bitches running our government: http://goo.gl/obiC

  • ||

    manhood101.com. Those are the guys who spout, "Allowing women to vote is no different than allowing children to govern themselves."

    I'm all for men sticking up for themselves both legally and in relationships, but the idea of giving women less legal standing than men is worthy only of ridicule in my book.

  • ||

    This is the effect of feminist stupidity.

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