New bill a ‘powerful tool to imprison sex offenders’

Amendment 2 would allow past cases to be used in court.

In the upcoming general election, voters will have many important decisions to make, one of which might make it easier to prosecute sex offenders.

The action, Missouri Evidence in Sexual Crimes Against Minors or Amendment 2, would allow prosecutors who are trying a case against an alleged child sex offender to use relevant past criminal activity as evidence against the defendants.

This means that if an alleged sex offender had been accused, but not found guilty, of a past crime, a prosecutor could still introduce the record of that accusation to the court as evidence against the defendant under Amendment 2.

The amendment has been seen as controversial, as it might make it easier to reach a guilty verdict in those types of cases.

“Due to some Supreme Court decisions, prosecuting attorneys were unable to try many cases of child sexual abuse in our state,” Rep. John McCaherty, R-Mo., said. “As a member of the Crime Prevention and Public Safety Committee, I see the amendment as a positive step to give prosecutors the tools they need to protect our children, and to see those that prey on them prosecuted. There has been no opposition to this legislation, and I was proud to sponsor it.”

McCaherty is the primary sponsor of the amendment, which recently received approval from the Missouri House of Representatives to be placed on the ballot in November.

McCaherty said he felt the bill would address an important gap in Missouri’s justice system, giving prosecutors a powerful tool to imprison sex offenders.

He said there should be no violation of the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution, which forbids double jeopardy, secures the right to a grand jury and protects against self-incrimination, or the Sixth Amendment, which includes the right to a public trial without unnecessary delay, the rights to a lawyer and an impartial jury and the right to know who your accusers are.

“Of course there have to be safeguards in place as well, so a defendant can receive a fair trial,” McCaherty said. “Not all evidence is relevant to every trial. This is the responsibility of the judge to determine the relevance in each case.”

The amendment has gained local attention and a Protect Missouri Children Committee formed to support the measure. The group believes that the amendment will protect children and aid in putting dangerous criminals behind bars.

The group is co-chaired by St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch and Platte County Prosecutor Eric Zahnd. Jasper County Prosecutor Dean Dankelson is the group’s treasurer.

According to the group’s website, www.protectmissourichildren.com, Dankelson believes that the passage of this amendment is crucial.

“Passing this constitutional amendment is probably the most important thing we can do to protect Missouri children from the most dangerous child sex predators,” Dankelson said in a news release.

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