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Court finds stigma is a consequence of crime

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  1. Court Access

    NMU         ALASKA         Secret Courts         Aug 8, 2002    

Court finds stigma is a consequence of crime

  • An appellate court in Anchorage denied an individual’s request to seal records of the 1980 kidnaping and rape charges for which he served time, noting that dealing with the social stigma is a recognized consequence of committing a crime.

An Alaska appellate court in Anchorage July 26 affirmed a lower court’s refusal to restrict access to the criminal conviction records of a felon who said he had been rehabilitated and should be able to put his past behind him.

Henry L. Johnson was convicted by a jury in 1980 of kidnaping and rape. After serving his time and completing probation, he asked a trial court in 2001 to seal his criminal conviction records. Johnson said that the community’s knowledge of his conviction caused him to be regarded unfairly in the community.

The court refused and Johnson appealed, arguing that he had proven good cause to seal the records. He presented an employment award and four favorable letters from members of the community as evidence of his rehabilitation.

The appellate court agreed with the lower court’s decision.

Judge David Stewart wrote the public’s right to know about an individual’s past convictions outweighs the convicted individual’s right to privacy. He wrote that prejudice and discrimination arising from knowledge of a person’s previous criminal record is recognized as social stigma an individual must deal with after being convicted of a crime.

“Johnson’s case is no different than any number of felons who are successfully rehabilitated yet who can point to negative events in their lives and blame the events on the disclosure of criminal records,” Stewart wrote.

(Johnson v. State) MM


© 2002 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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