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Prosecutors Want to Toughen Sex Crime Laws - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Prosecutors Want to Toughen Sex Crime Laws

Bill Sorrell Bill Sorrell
Brooke Bennett Brooke Bennett
Michael Jacques Michael Jacques

Montpelier, Vermont - August 6, 2008

Vermont's Attorney General and state prosecutors are seeking changes in law aimed at improving protection, prevention, and punishment in sex crime cases.

"We want to reduce sex crimes in Vermont and when they do occur we want to respond more aggressively and effectively," said Bill Sorrell, D-Vt. Attorney General.

Sorrell and 13 of the 14 county prosecutors gathered to present their recommendations for improved sex crime laws and policies.

The prosecutors made the recommendations in response to a shocking sex crime that triggered many troubling questions.

"We share with so many Vermonters the sorrow the anger and the frustration over what happened to Brooke Bennett," said Sorrell.

Authorities are frustrated because the 12-year--old was savagely murdered after she was allegedly kidnapped by her uncle, Michael Jacques, a convicted rapist on the state's sex offender registry.

No one has ben charged with her murder, but there is evidence Jacques exploited gaping weaknesses in the criminal justice system that were supposed to keep him under supervision.

They are calling for number of changes:

1. Expand sex crime units

2. Use history in court

3. No victim depositions

4. Get DNA at arrest

5. Increased supervision

6. Access to offender records

The prosecutors say one of their biggest problems is the pre-trial deposition in which defense lawyers often intimidate the victims and those victims are occasionally unwilling to face the same treatment at trial.

Bennington County Prosecutor Erica Marthage said that's what it come down to fairly regularly.

Noticeably absent from the recommendations; any mention of Jessica's Law, which thousands of Vermonters have pushed for. But some prosecutors think it ties their hands-- preventing plea bargains-- and will lead to some sex offenders getting off scot free.

Brian Joyce - WCAX News

Click here for complete coverage of the Brooke Bennett case.

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