CNN NEWSNIGHT AARON BROWN
Suspect in Idaho Murders, Kidnappings Had Violent Past; Investigators Get Details of Murder, Abductions from Shasta Groene; Laws Getting Tougher on Child Molesters; New Test Gives Gender Results Early in Pregnancy; Some Fear Chilling Effect on Media of Judge’s Decision
Aired July 6, 2005 – 22:00 ET
BROWN: We’re joined now by author and lawyer, Andrew Vachss, who spent more than 30 years working on behalf of abused children. Life for him changed when, as an investigator for the federal public health service, he encountered a baby who had contracted a venereal disease after being abused.
Mr. Vachss joins us tonight from Kansas City. It’s nice to see you.
Bail is a right of someone who is arrested, suspected of a crime, is entitled to bail. Can we, at least in the cases of repeat offenders, or people we believe might be repeat offenders, deny them bail outright?
ANDREW VACHSS, ATTORNEY & AUTHOR: Not only can’t we, but we shouldn’t. It’s a nonsensical response to a more serious problem.
The real issue is why are they on the street to begin with? Not whether we register them. Not whether we give them high bail when they’re caught again. Why are they on the street to begin with? That’s the fundamental question that has to be addressed.
BROWN: OK. So — which begs the question, do we then take — and which ones do we take? I mean, do we take the flasher? Or who is it that gets hauled in prison forever?
VACHSS: We take the violent, predatory, chronic offender. It’s astounding to me that a state could literally say a person is a sexual psychopath and then pronounce him either cured or having paid his debt to society. Neither makes any sense.
BROWN: Well, it’s interesting, Washington state, I think, was the first of the states to pass the civil commitment law. Fifteen other states, 14 other states now do it. Is there evidence in those states that there is less abuse of children by repeat offenders?
VACHSS: Not only is there less abuse, but that law is a contradiction in logic. If you’re going to retain somebody on the grounds that they have a mental disease or defect, you’re actually being a defense attorney’s dream. Because if you accept that logic, then all these offenders are insane to begin with, as opposed to people who choose their conduct.
BROWN: That’s an interesting way to look at it. You’re the lawyer in this. But in most states, if not all, the legal definition of insanity has to do with — one of the tests is knowing that the act is wrong. Right?
VACHSS: Indeed. Being able to appreciate the consequences of it and knowing it’s wrong.
BROWN: And knowing the difference between right and wrong. Mostly people know what they’re doing is wrong. They argue, I think, that they can’t control the impulse.
VACHSS: That would be enough under many states to satisfy the definition of insanity. Certainly, you can’t say we should have a sexual psychopath law and that there’s no such thing as irresistible impulse. People like me distinguish state of mind from conduct.
BROWN: Yes. One of the points you make when we talked to you earlier today, is that we’re very good at a nation at talking the talk. That we ran this sort of thing like what happened in Idaho. We’re outraged for a good four or five days. And then it all goes away.
VACHSS: Indeed, that’s the truth. Look, all this screaming and yelling about a registry, right now, you’ve got six figures worth of registered sex offenders that nobody knows the whereabouts of, not one or two. But there’s no federal funds to track them down. There’s no federal will to incarcerate them for the crime of absconding. So what’s the point of a registry?
BROWN: Just — we’ve only got about a half a minute, 40 seconds or so here. But ultimately, we need to stop this — we need to stop it before a crime is committed. Do we — have we committed resources to deal with children who are abused? Because the fact is children who are abused tend to become abusers.
VACHSS: Bingo. Unless you believe that these people are biogenetic misfires, unless there’s some strange DNA that makes them do what they do, we accept that we make our own monsters and we build our own beasts.
If we actually want to do prevention, then we have to put money on the front lines which is child protective services. As a nation, we have not been willing to do that.
BROWN: Come back and talk to us some more about this. I’ve got lots more questions.
BROWN: Nice to see you, Andrew Vachss.