Gary Blanton and Jerry Ray were ambushed and murdered on June 3 in Clallam County, Washington, by Patrick Drum. Having widowed Leslie Blanton and stolen a father from her two sons, the confessed killer said, “It had to be done,” and that he had intended to kill even more persons he found on Washington’s public sex offender registry.
“These two men were murdered in cold blood because they were required by law to mark themselves as targets for vigilantes,” said Paul Shannon, Director of RSOL (Reform Sex Offender Laws). Vicki Henry, Director of W.A.R. (Women Against Registry) elaborated, “Drum’s pathological hatred for ‘registered sex offenders’ has devastated the lives of Blanton’s and Ray’s families and friends and has sent chills of fear into the hearts of families and friends of another 750,000 registrants across this nation.”
Most of the articles dealing with the story make it clear that such vigilante activity should not be tolerated by law-abiding citizens. “Anyone who is taking justice in to their own hands and attacking sex offenders in this community, we’ll take care of them very, very strongly,” said Clallan County Sheriff Bill Benedict to King5.com. Brian O’Neill, writing for the News Tribune’s Blue Byline, “A cop’s perspective of the news,” (http://blog.thenewstribune.com/bluebyline/2012/06/04/1838/#storylink=cpy), zeroes in on the core problem: “Our justice system, for all its faults, is the product of our collective will, and it was created to repudiate [vigilantism]. Life is sacred and people deserve a chance to defend themselves from the presumptive judgment of one person.”
Sadly, much of the reading public has no such scruples. Many comments to these blogs and articles hail Mr. Drum as a hero and deplore that he was arrested before he had completed or at least furthered his mission, as evidenced by these comments on various sites. A commenter on the Huffington Post wrote,” I for one am 100% for the registry and they should probably include bounties on it too… I really don’t [sic] care where Patrick [sic] found the names. I’m [sic] just glad he found them.” “I say let him go and give him a medal,” wrote a visitor to King5.com. And from The Daily News came, “The president should grant him amnesty. He obviously has unfinished work to do.”
Blanton and Ray and far too many others are victimized daily by the malingering stigma of sex-crimes from which they long ago repented and have completed their punishments. Blanton’s offense of third degree rape occurred over a decade ago when he himself was a juvenile; he leaves behind a family. Ray, convicted of rape of a child in 2003, lived with his father.
RSOL, SOSEN (Sex Offender Solutions and Education Network), W.A.R. and NJFAIR (Families Advocating Intelligent Reform in New Jersey) work daily to educate public officials and the general public about scientifically grounded practices which have been proven to make communities safer. “Sexual violation of a child is a serious crime that is usually carried out by relatives or others close to the child. But most people on the registry have never actually harmed a child,” said Shannon. “We need to support policies and laws that are effective and based on solid research. Public sex offender registries are neither. It is long past time to terminate policies based on ignorance and hatred which stigmatize, ostracize, and terrorize those labeled “sex offenders” and their families long after they have completed their sentences.”
Lynn Gilmore, SOSEN CEO, who uses a pseudonym for advocacy work in order to safeguard family privacy due to the potential for bigotry, bullying, and stigma associated with the issue, added, “Since 2003, there has been a notable increase in the number of murders of registrants. It is hard to deny that the creation of a public registry has led to unintended consequences: vigilante threats and actions, verbal assaults, vandalism, violence, and murders of registrants and, in some cases, their innocent family members. At SOSEN we feel that the only place for a registry of this nature is in the hands of law enforcement, not the public.”
“When people are on the registry, it puts them in danger of having targets drawn on their foreheads as well as on the foreheads of family members and others who live at the same address. In doing this, the public registry is facilitating criminal acts. Clearly, the public registry must be seriously reconsidered,” concludes Shannon.
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So Can Their Family Members Sue?
The reason we can’t (yet) sue over the registry, is so far, a judge has never agreed that it causes harm. So far, the judges have all bought into the lie, that it’s no different than car registration.
I can’t speak for Washington State.
But the exception is the irreparable harm. The reason you typically can’t sue them over the registry, is because it is so damn difficult to prove that the registry itself, is what is causing you harm. Remember the big lie. If you get fired from a job, or denied a job, because of the registry, the State simply comes back and says it was your felony, not the registry, that cost you your job. So you can’t sue there.
However, in this case, we have clear evidence, that this man was killed specifically because of the registry. So something that the state did specifically, caused his murder. I believe that overrides Sovereign Immunity.
This family has a monumental irreparable loss. The attorney only has to prove that the State made the murderer believe that this man was so dangerous ‘that he deserved to be put down like an animal’ (that is not my words, that’s words of the murderer).
So an attorney only has to show that the State made the murderer, believe that it was imperative that this man be murdered, and at that point, the State is complicit in the murder.
If my vandalism claim was enough to challenge sovereign immunity, I don’t see how this isn’t.