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Missouri man faces life sentence for sex crimes against child

A Missouri man is facing a mandatory life sentence after being convicted of the sexual abuse of a child. The man, age 50, will be sentenced under a relatively unknown provision in Missouri law, which is designed to characterize defendants as predatory sexual offenders. The defendant was convicted of sex crimes against an 8-year-old child after a recent criminal trial.

Authorities say that the "predatory sexual offender" tag was applied in this case because the man apparently had an extensive history of sexually abusing children. The defendant revealed some of this information during the second phase of his criminal trial, when he admitted under oath that he assaulted a 5-year-old girl when he was 15 years old. Those previous acts are not considered as additional convictions; instead, they are used to inform the sentencing decisions that will determine the man's future in custody. He will be formally sentenced in August, at which time a judge will determine the length of the man's actual stay in prison before he can be paroled.

This case provides a chilling example of the legal maneuvering that can lead a defendant to abandon some of their rights in court. The man was not being tried for the previous assaults, but they will now weigh against him when the time comes for sentencing. Fifteen states permit this type of sentencing protocol.

Further, Missouri legislators are making moves to change the state constitution, proposing bills that would allow prosecutors to tell jurors about previous allegations of abuse, even if charges were never filed. That is, a jury in a sex offense case could be exposed to information about the defendant that is potentially untrue -- and that information could be protected by law. Criminal defendants deserve fair, unbiased proceedings -- not those that involve hearsay and unconfirmed facts.

Source: The Kansas City Star, "Riverside man faces life in prison for child sex crimes" Glenn E. Rice, Jun. 19, 2014

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