2nd Circuit, Federal Judges, Judge of the Day, Kids, Pornography, Sentencing Law

Judge of the Day: Sentence Based on Judge’s Genetic Theories Overturned

Judge Gary Sharpe

Do you think there is a child porn “gene”? It’s an interesting scientific question (although I don’t really care, because I don’t believe in genetic determinism). I’m sure that one day science will give us some kind of answer.

But it is not this day. At this point we don’t know if there are any genetic predispositions that explain why sick-ass people are sexually excited by naked children.

This limit in our scientific understanding did not stop U.S. District Judge Gary Sharpe from sentencing an offender based on his belief about what science will one day uncover.

Well, the power of judges may be inscrutable, but it’s not absolute. They can’t make entire sequences of DNA show up on demand. They can’t see into the future. And apparently they can’t keep their sentences from being overturned on appeal when they base their decisions on science that does not exist…

The ABA Journal reports that Judge Sharpe apparently doesn’t know the difference between “judge” and “scientist”:

U.S. District Judge Gary Sharpe has a theory about people who view child pornography.

About 50 years from now, scientists will discover that child porn consumption is caused by “a gene you were born with,” Sharpe said as he sentenced a defendant to 6½ years in prison in December 2009. “And it’s not a gene you can get rid of.”

Actually Judge Sharpe was full of pet theories:

Sharpe had rejected two separate psychological examinations that had found Cossey had a low to moderate risk of committing the crime again. Sharpe said those opinions are “virtually worthless,” partly because he did not “have a lot of faith in that profession in the first place” and psychiatrists are “all over the board on those issues.” The other reason was his stated belief that “you are what you’re born with.”

Oh dear. A few thoughts, in no particular order:

  • Scientists don’t like being told what they “will” discover.
  • Defense lawyers don’t like being told what scientists will discover about their clients.
  • God doesn’t like being told what will be discovered in 50 years.
  • Even if Judge Sharpe’s crystal ball is correct, isn’t it up to Congress to decide how society should process this new revelation about the human genome?
  • Does Judge Sharpe have any other future laws he’d like to impose? Perhaps in 50 years aliens will come down to treplicate with our species. Perhaps Judge Sharpe can tell us how that will affect our community property laws?

Thankfully, the Second Circuit was not too impressed with Judge Sharpe:

Now a New York-based federal appeals court has ruled that Sharpe’s theories justify resentencing for the defendant, Gary Cossey, according to the New York Times and the Associated Press. “It would be impermissible for the court to base its decision of recidivism on its unsupported theory of genetics,” the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said in its opinion (PDF).

The thing is, the issue of recidivism when it comes to child porn “aficionados” is a serious one. We need scientists and shrinks and political hacks and scholars to come up with a real solution to the problem.

We don’t need rogue judges going off on their own pet theories. Leave the experimentation to scientists, Judge Sharpe, and just try sticking to the facts in the record.

Federal Judge’s Theories About a Child Porn Gene Get Him Tossed from Case [ABA Journal]

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