« Courts - " In U.S. gay marriage cases, children emerge in the limelight" | Main | Ind. Decisions - Supreme Court decides one today »

Monday, July 21, 2014

Ind. Law - More on "Changes to expungement process poses danger to public"

That was the headline to a story in the May 11th Martinsville Reporter Times; unfortunately it was and remains behind a paywall.

Now it seems that the prosecutor in the adjoining Monroe County shares the concerns. A story headed "Law intended to provide a fresh start draws mixed reviews" appeared in the Sunday, July 13th Bloomington Herald-Times, unfortunately also behind a paywall. From the teaser:

Many people say the trend toward expungement is a good idea, an opportunity for people charged with or convicted of breaking the law to have their criminal slates wiped clean if they stay out of trouble and proceed with their lives in a law-abiding manner.

Others say the process can demean the criminal justice system by effectively making a person’s bad acts disappear. Asked on a job application about any felony convictions, someone with a successful expungement can respond “no.”

Yesterday, Newsbug.com has an AP version of the Herald-Times story. Some quotes:
"There is good, and bad, where this law is concerned," Monroe County Chief Deputy Prosecutor Bob Miller told The Herald-Times (http://bit.ly/WfjFPf ). "On the one hand, it provides a sort of amnesty for people who made a mistake when they were younger that has haunted them since in terms of education and employment. That part is a good thing."

But victims can think it's unfair for an offender to clear his record, Miller said.

That's happened in Morgan County, where Prosecutor Steve Sonnega has challenged expungement petitions he doesn't think should be granted.

Sonnega said the positive aspects of the law are often outweighed by the loss of the victim's rights.

He cited one case in which a man charged with sexual battery had a trial where 11 jurors voted to convict and one stood firm on her not-guilty vote. The victim, a child at the time of the crime, didn't want to testify a second time, so the charge was reduced to battery and the man pleaded guilty.

During the perpetrator's expungement hearing earlier this year, the victim testified that she still is haunted by what happened.

"She testified, very powerfully, that she had to live with the consequences of his actions every day and that she believed he should, too — a logical argument from a crime victim," Sonnega said. * * *

Morgan Superior Court Judge G. Thomas Gray, a former prosecutor, said he dislikes the expungement process and objects to a provision that says victims can address the court, but the judge cannot consider their testimony if the expungement fits the statute.

He also objects to a requirement that expungement petitions and hearings be kept confidential.

"It's an oxymoron. You can't allow anyone in the courtroom to hear what they say, and it can't be considered anyway," he said.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on July 21, 2014 11:48 AM
Posted to Indiana Law