State v. McCormick: Sex Offender’s Suspended Sentence Remains Revoked

Harsh opinon from the WA Supremes . . .

http://www.courts.wa.gov/opinions/index.cfm?fa=opinions.showOpinion&filename=811938MAJ

David McCormick was convicted of first degree rape of a child for raping his 11-year-old granddaughter. He was sentenced to over 10 years in prison, but given a special sex offender sentencing alternative (SSOSA) that suspended the prison term provided he abide by certain restrictions, including that he “not frequent areas where minor children are known to congregate”

Unfortunately, McCormick’s community corrections officer was tipped off that McCormick had been regularly visiting a St. Vincent De Paul Food Bank located in a building used as part of an elementary school. This was not McCormick’s first violation of the SSOSA terms, and the trial court revoked the sentencing alternative.

McCormick argued that the State should have been required to prove that his violation was willful, that the state and federal constitutional guarantees of due process require proof that such a violation was willful before revoking a suspended sentence, and that there was insufficient evidence.

However, the Court held that the plain language of the SSOSA statutes do not require proof that a violation was willful before a sentence may be revoked, that post-conviction due process requirements do not require proof of willfulness, and that there was sufficient evidence to support the trial court’s decision. Justice Fairhurst wrote the majority opinion and was joined by seven other justices.

Justice Sanders dissented, asserting that “[t]he State should at least be constitutionally required to prove McCormick reasonably should have known the food bank was an area where minors are known to congregate.”

My opinion?  The Supremes established bright-line rules regarding how they view SSOSA violations.  Basically, their attitude is zero tolerance:  “If you’re on SSOSA, don’t even so much as ACCIDENTLY place yourself where children are present.  We won’t entertain whether violations are willful.  You, in your position, should be smart enough to stay away from children, Mr. Child Molester . . .”

Our society and legal system is harsh on child molesters.  Period.

Case in point: just yesterday, I was watching jury selection for murder case up here in Whatcom County.  Defense attorney was establishing good rapport with the jury pool —  up until he mentions the defendant molested his daughter in the past.  What happened next was extremely unfortunate for the defendant.  One by one, potential jurors raised their hands and begged to be excused from the jury.  “Sorry, I can’t be unbiased . . . I’ve got kids . . . child molestation is awful . . . scum of the earth . . .” No joke — by the time jury selection ended, only half of the jury pool remained.

It isn’t easy representing client with sex cases.  However, it doesn’t mean they aren’t entitled to adequate defense.  Quite the contrary.  The “molestation” monicker follows defendants around for a lifetime.  They must register themselves wherever they live.  They’re under constant scrutiny from treatment providers and the parole board.

So here’s my advice: if there’s any chance IN THE WORLD that a sex case can be proved innocent before a jury, then defendant must retain counsel that’s ready — and willing — to take the charges before a jury.  The sentencing options for sex cases are few; and as we can see, poorly defended.