Nixon vetoes sex offender measure

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon

Gov. Jay Nixon on Wednesday vetoed legislation that he said would remove sex offenders who commit their crimes as juveniles from websites that let the public know who they are, a day after he signed a measure that strengthens laws against sexual offenses.

Nixon said the vetoed measure is too broad.

“It would grant this relief to juvenile sex offenders regardless of the sexual offense for which they were convicted to include forcible rape, forcible sodomy and child molestation,” said Nixon, who was state attorney general before becoming governor.

“Moreover, the bill would deprive victims of sex offenses the opportunity to be heard before an offender is removed from the very websites that are designed to protect victims and other members of the public.”

Under the legislation, future juvenile offenders also eventually would have been allowed to petition for their removal from the sex offender registry.

State lawmakers return to the Capitol in September to decide whether they will try to override any vetoes.

On Tuesday, Nixon signed a criminal justice bill that includes a change to what constitutes rape. It had been defined as having sex with another person by use of “forcible compulsion,” which includes the use of a substance to physically or mentally impair another without his or her knowledge or approval.

The new law broadens that to include instances in which someone is incapacitated, is incapable of consent or lacks the capacity to consent.

The Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence has said the changes refocus the crimes to include the experience of the victim.

The crime measure renames some sexual offenses and categorizes them into tiers that allow for a jury to convict a defendant of a lesser offense.

The bill also expands who is unable to give consent for sexual contact. Currently, that includes someone who is unable to make a reasonable judgment because of mental illness or intoxication. Now it will include those who have been drugged or who cannot, for any other reason, make a reasonable decision about the nature or harmfulness of the conduct.

Besides sex offenses, the legislation also deals with the state’s public defender system.

Defendants currently are represented by a public defender when they face incarceration, which includes felonies, misdemeanors and probation or parole violations.

Now a public defender will represent defendants in probation or parole violation cases if a judge determines representation is necessary to protect due process rights. A public defender would be appointed in misdemeanor cases unless the prosecutor waives the possibility of a jail sentence.

Defense officials could request to discuss caseload issues with the presiding judge in a local circuit, but the public defender system could not limit its availability to accept new cases.