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Filan: Right decision, wrong result

Karr manipulated the justice system and got away with it

Karr goes free
Oct. 6: Marc Klaas of the Klass Kids Foundation and MSNBC senior legal analyst Susan Filan discuss prosecutors’ decision to drop child pornography charges against John Mark Karr.
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When I first heard that charges against John Mark Karr were dismissed at prosecutors’ request, I thought, “You have got to be kidding me.” I couldn’t understand at first what had happened. But when I learned that prosecutors had a case they could not prove, I knew they did the right thing.

While they did the right thing, the result is very wrong. And probably no one is more disappointed than the Sonoma County DA’s office today. Knowing someone is guilty but not being able to prove it is one of the most frustrating aspects of law enforcement.

Karr was charged with five misdemeanor counts of possession of child pornography. And while he would not have spent much more time in prison than he already had if convicted, he would have had to register for life as a sex offender, which was the prosecution’s real goal. Karr needed supervision and to register because anyone who accesses images of child pornography on a computer is a pedophile, and every pedophile is potentially dangerous. Looking at the images alone is exploitive of children, but the exploitation may not stop there. Looking can escalate to touching, and molestation can lead to murder.

The reason, ironically, this case fell apart, is that Karr intentionally failed to appear on the eve of his trial in 2001. He skipped town, fled the country and stayed away so long that by the time he was brought back to face justice, the evidence against him was gone. The charges were not dismissed because he was innocent, and the evidence was not lost because the cops were incompetent, nor did the prosecutors drop the ball. Karr went free because he ran away and got away with it. Maddening. Sometimes, the bad guys win.

The court had previously ordered Karr’s passport surrendered, and now that charges have been dismissed, it is highly likely that he will get his passport back. He would be free to leave the country, and who knows where he will go and what he will do unsupervised? If he stays in this country, his now-famous face should be easily recognizable. Hopefully, this will prevent some unwitting parents from hiring him as their next babysitter.

This is a most extraordinary end to an incredible case. The prosecutors did the right thing, the only thing they could do, but the result is wrong, and no one knows this better than the prosecutors who had to let the bad guy get away.

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