Mission: Improbable Getting Exonerated From a Child Sexual Abuse Conviction

Extensive citation of social science research is unnecessary for us to know that child sexual abuse is one of the most underreported crimes. Likewise, most people would be hard pressed to think of a crime as despicable as child sexual abuse, and we have few qualms about strict sentences for such offenders. So when an Orange County, California, Superior Court judge recently sentenced a child rapist to 10 years instead of the mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years, the community was outraged. Tens of thousands of people called for the judge to resign. It happens—albeit rarely—that people are wrongfully convicted of child sexual abuse and are later exonerated. The National Registry of Exonerations (NRE), a project of the University of Michigan Law School “provides detailed information about every known exoneration in the United States since 1989—cases in which a person was wrongly convicted of a crime and later cleared of all the charges based on new evidence of innocence.” This article looks at the 181 cases of people listed in the NRE registry as exonerated for “child sex abuse” from 2010 through August 2015.

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The Problem of Campus Sexual Assault

Stop Campus Sexual Assault

Recently, a friend and fellow University of Chicago alumna showed me an open letter to university president Robert Zimmer demanding that the university reevaluate its policy regarding campus sexual assaults. After reporting an assault by her then-partner and being illegally offered a mediation session by Dean of Students Susan Art, current fourth-year student Olivia Ortiz filed a complaint with the United States Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights (OCR), prompting a larger investigation of the university for possible violations of Title IX. In response, a coalition of alumni wrote and circulated the letter in question. I gladly added my name.

Though I am heartbroken to read about my beloved alma mater's betrayal of sexual assault victims, I am not surprised. Campus sexual assaults are chillingly common, according to the Department of Education's 2011 Dear Colleague Letter: Sexual Violence Background, Summary, and Fast Facts (found on Marsh Law Firm's roundup of Title IX resources):


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Are child porn viewers less dangerous than we thought?

This recent commentary, by Slate.com columnist and journalist writer Emily Bazelon (who earlier this year wrote a New York Times Magazine cover story on the Marsh Law Firm's groundbreaking work on restitution for child pornography victims), is a reaction to the United States Sentencing Commission's recent report to Congress on federal child pornography offenses. Making child pornography is abuse. What about possessing it? As a group, these offenders—the ones who look but don’t abuse children to create new images—are serving increasingly long prison ...

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Penalties for Falsely Reporting Child Abuse

The Jerry Sandusky criminal trial is over; the civil lawsuits are in active settlement mode. Undoubtedly, the entire country is more tuned into child abuse than it ever was. The National Conference of State Legislatures reports that about 105 bills on the reporting of suspected child abuse and neglect have been introduced in 2012 legislative sessions in 30 states and the District of Columbia. 1 All of them include a penalty for failing to report suspected child abuse. Oregon is one of the states which recently enacted child abuse reporting legislation. It added to the ...

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Federal Child Pornography Offenses – Report to Congress

This report is the result of a multi-year process in which the United States Sentencing Commission (“the Commission”) examined cases of offenders sentenced under the federal sentencing guidelines and corresponding penal statutes concerning child pornography offenses. The purpose of this report is to contribute to the ongoing assessment by Congress and the various stakeholders in the federal criminal justice system regarding how federal child pornography offenders are prosecuted, sentenced, incarcerated, and supervised following their reentry into the communi...

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