Putting Teeth Into Megan's Law, or, When Will We Get Serious About the Invasion Across Our Northern Border?


Reader Sandy Smith sends in the story of Stephen A. Marshall, a 20-year-old Cape Breton dishwasher who, during a visit to his father in Maine, borrowed dad's truck, rifle and two handguns, shot two men in two different towns, then tried to take a bus to Boston, where he was approached by police and shot himself. Although police are still looking for a motive in the crimes, it's clear where Marshall found his victims: on Maine's sex offender registry.

Interestingly, this news report notes that Marshall had to enter his name and some personal information to get the addresses of his targets. That makes Maine's registry slightly more restrictive than California's, which provides a home address—down to the apartment number—along with a brief description of the crimes, aliases, tattoos information, etc., without requiring you to enter any information. Maine's registry is generous in another respect: When I looked up one guy at random (crime: possession of child pornography), I got the addresses of both his places of employment, but only a general area for his home address. Whether a general location is more likely to spread public hysteria than a specific address is an open question, but according to the site there's more information available on request:

Additional information will include:

  • alias name
  • registrant's sex, race, height, weight, and eye color
  • mailing and home address
  • legal description of the crime for which the registrant was convicted, date of conviction, and the sentence imposed

The Department of Public Safety in the Pine Tree State took the site down during the search for Marshall, but it's back up, and according to a spokesman, there are no plans to change it.

I'll admit that I've checked out California's registry and been relieved that there are no preeverts within striking distance of my family (a fringe benefit of living in one of America's most intolerant and segregated cities), but this case illustrates the dangers of having the state brand convicts who have already served whatever sentence the state deemed fit for their crimes—particularly when that branding is based on questionable psychological theories. As it happens, one of Marshall's victims, 24-year-old William Elliott, was registered for the crime of having sexual relations with a girl under the legal age. Since there's a separate category for sexual misbehavior with children under the age of 14, that means this was a girl between the ages of 14 and 18, a simple jailbait situation*. William Elliot may not have been a nice person, he looks creepy in his mugshot (but then who doesn't?), and he may have deserved prison time for whatever he did. I don't think he deserved to be marked for life for it. And he certainly didn't deserve to be killed.

* Update: Boston Globe reports Elliot's crime was that he had sex with a 15-year-old (two weeks shy of her 16th birthday) when he was 19.