Vice Squad
Sunday, January 28, 2007
Prosecution & laws gone wild

A few days ago, a substitute 40-year old teacher in Connecticut was convicted of exposing students to pornography on a computer at a middle school. The teacher was apparently a victim of spyware that caused x-rated ads to pop up on the screen after she accessed a website completely unrelated to pornography. A good discussion of the case is here. This is indeed a fine example of prosecutorial excess and I don't have much to add to that point. It's not that unusual for the prosecutors to be overzealous, however. Just look at the Duke lacrosse case. What is perhaps more amazing is that apparently the jury (I assume it was a jury trial) went along with the prosecutors here. Generally, I do not like to question jury decisions, because they hear the entire case and I don't. But in this particular case, it is hard to avoid reasonable doubt.

Even more outrageous, however, is the fact that a person can get 40 years in prison (and presumably be labeled a sex offender for the rest of her life) for exposing children to pornography. The entire argument in the case was apparently whether the teacher clicked on the porn sites herself or whether it was a pop-up caused by spyware. But what was going through the head of the state legislators who came up with a 40 year prison term for this crime?

The sentencing is on March 2.

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