Thursday’s Children and the Law News Roundup

Attorney Defends Handling of Rape Case, The News Desk

Defense attorney Denise Rafferty spent roughly 80 minutes on the witness stand Tuesday, defending her handling of the case against a former Aquia Harbour teen now fighting to get his name off the state’s sex-offender registry.

She said she asked Edgar Coker’s parents multiple times for help finding people who would support him in his defense of a 2007 rape charge and for copies of his school records but got no help.

Coker was 15 on June 4, 2007, when he and a 14-year-old neighbor engaged in what the girl and her mother now say was consensual sex.

Attorneys for Coker, who is now 22, are in court this week to try to get his criminal convictions set aside and remove him from the state’s sex offender registry.

Seven Officers at Georgia RYDC Removed after “Egregious Policy Violations,” Juvenile Justice Information Exchange

Georgia’s Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) announced that seven employees at the DeKalb County Regional Youth Detention Center have been removed, following findings from a three-week investigation.

According to Jim Shuler, an official DJJ spokesman, three of the officers, among them the facility’s night shift sergeant, resigned while the review was still being conducted. The other four officers, all of whom were suspended during the investigation, have been dismissed from their positions.

In a press release, DJJ Commissioner Avery Niles said that several night shift officers at the facility allegedly allowed youths to enter and exit the facility at-will.

Perps or Pupils?  Safety Policy Creates Prison-like New York City Schools, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange

When Minerva Dickson first saw her high school she thought it looked like a prison. After her first week she realized how right her initial impressions were.

Every day when she arrived at the Thomas Jefferson Campus in Brownsville, Brooklyn, she waited in a line that snaked out onto Pennsylvania Avenue. She would shuffle up two steps passing beneath words from Abraham Lincoln inscribed on the neo-classical pediment: “Let Reverence for the Laws Become the Political Religion of the Nation.”

Next, she reached into her pocket for her identification card and slid it through a machine. When it recognized her, it blurted an approving beep and a green light would flash. When it didn’t, the machine made an abrasive buzzing noise and lit up red.

Clear of the reader, she headed to the metal detectors. There, at least a half dozen school safety agents waited. School safety agents, who answer to the New York City Police Department, wear a police uniform and a shield. A pair of handcuffs dangles from their belts.

Baby Veronica’s Birth Mother: Girl Belongs With Adoptive Parents, The Washington Post

Christy Maldonado lives in Oklahoma. This month she filed a brief urging the Supreme Court of South Carolina to finalize her birth daughter’s adoption by Matt and Melanie Capobianco.

In the summer of 2009, I made the most difficult decision of my life: to place my baby, Veronica Rose, with adoptive parents. Many know her as “Baby Girl” or “Baby Veronica” because her adoptive parents and I fought all the way to the Supreme Court for Veronica’s right to be treated like a human being — not property owned by a Native American tribe.

I am Latina and not a member of any tribe. When I became pregnant, I was already a single mother with two children, in a relationship that was on the rocks. I thought hard about my options and decided I could not have an abortion. I was briefly engaged to Veronica’s biological father, who is a member of the Cherokee Nation, but our relationship was over by my third trimester.

When I asked my ex whether he wanted to be involved, he told me, by text message, that he wanted to give up all parental rights. And that was the last I heard from him. It was clear that my pregnancy and my baby were my responsibility.
New DelhiThe Supreme Court has refused to reduce the age for being considered juvenile to 16 years and has said that even those accused of heinous crimes, but below 18 years of age, will continue to be tried by a juvenile board under the Juvenile Justice Act, and not by a regular trial court.The top court was hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by an advocate seeking an amendment to the existing Juvenile law to allow those below 18 to be punished under regular law if they are charged with serious crimes.”We uphold the provisions of Juvenile Act. Interference is not necessary,” said a bench headed by Chief Justice Altamas Kabir.

The petition was filed after the brutal gang-rape and murder of a 23-year-old medical student in a moving bus in Delhi in December last year.One of the six men accused of the horrific crime was a minor when the incident happened. He has been tried by the juvenile board and if found guilty, faces a maximum punishment of three years in a correction home.

Wednesday’s Children and the Law News Roundup

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More Harm Than Good: Exempt Youth Sex Offenders from Registration Laws, Human Rights Watch

Harsh public registration laws often punish youth sex offenders for life and do little to protect public safety, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. A web of federal and state laws apply to people under 18 who have committed any of a wide range of sex offenses, from the very serious, like rape, to the relatively innocuous, such as public nudity.

The 111-page report, “Raised on the Registry: The Irreparable Harm of Placing Children on Sex Offender Registries in the US,” details the harm public registration laws cause for youth sex offenders. The laws, which can apply for decades or even a lifetime and are layered on top of time in prison or juvenile detention, require placing offenders’ personal information on online registries, often making them targets for harassment, humiliation, and even violence. The laws also severely restrict where, and with whom, youth sex offenders may live, work, attend school, or even spend time . . .

Available research indicates that youth sex offenders are among the least likely to reoffend.

For more information, see the YouTube video.

Kentucky Boy, 5, Accidentally Shoots to Death 2 Year old Sister, LA Times

A 2-year-old Kentucky girl was accidentally killed by her 5-year-old brother who fired a rifle he had been given as a gift, officials said Wednesday.

Cumberland County Coroner Gary L. White said an autopsy of Caroline Starks showed the toddler had died from a single shot from the .22-caliber rifle. The death has been ruled accidental and no charges will be filed . . .

The rifle used in the accident is a Crickett designed for children and sold under the slogan “My First Rifle,” according to the company’s website. It is a smaller weapon designed for children and comes with a shoulder stock in child-like colors including pink and swirls . . .

It is legal in Kentucky to give a child a rifle as a gift, White said. Nor is it unusual for children to have rifles, often passed down from their parents, he said.

Earlier this month, Brandon Holt, 6, was accidentally shot to death by a 4-year-old playmate in New Jersey.

Compton Jurors Hear Widely Disparate Views of Accused Killer, 16, LA Times

Compton jury heard conflicting portraits Tuesday of a 16-year-old girl charged with murdering her mother and stepfather, whose bodies were found more than a year ago buried in separate shallow graves.

Cynthia Alvarez sat quietly wearing a pale-blue cardigan, her hair tied back in a ponytail, as a prosecutor told jurors that the teen had confessed to the October 2011 killings and carried them out with her boyfriend, Giovanni Gallardo.  Los Angeles County Deputy Dist. Atty. Kristin Trutanich said . . . “They planned and executed the murders,” . . . Both Alvarez and Gallardo are charged as adults.

Deputy Public Defender Carole Telfer described the teen as a longtime victim of sexual, physical and emotional abuse at the hands of those she is accused of killing.  As a little girl, she was molested by her stepfather, Jose Lara, who moved in with her and her mother about a year after her father was deported to Honduras, Telfer said. . . .

Her mother, Gloria Villalta, forced Alvarez to maintain the house, cook and give her insulin, Telfer told jurors . . . “Mrs. Villalta essentially kept Cynthia as a slave for her personal use,” Telfer told jurors. Child welfare authorities investigated a report that Villalta lit a piece of paper and held it to her daughter’s nose, but no action was taken, the lawyer said.

In 2008, the lawyer said, Lara sodomized his stepdaughter in their kitchen while the rest of the family was away . . . Alvarez tried unsuccessfully to get help and at times attempted suicide using pills and cutting herself, the attorney said. She also tried to run away and on one occasion was tied up with electrical cords by her mother and stepfather, Telfer said.

About a year before the killings, Alvarez met her boyfriend at Dominguez High School. Gallardo was domineering and ultimately abusive to Alvarez, who suffered from a language processing disorder, Telfer said.  Gallardo, then 16, suggested that they kill her parents, but Alvarez, then 15, would not agree, her lawyer told the jury. On the day of the killings, Gallardo showed up at her home after she had an argument with her mother, Telfer said.

During the violence, Alvarez stayed in the home’s living room and was “basically paralyzed,” her attorney told the jury. Gallardo told her to use a baseball bat on her stepfather and she did so out of fear of her boyfriend, Telfer said . . .

Alvarez and Gallardo, who is now 17, face sentences of life in prison if convicted of murder. Gallardo is expected to face trial in the next few weeks.