Wednesday’s Children and the Law News Roundup

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. 

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