Thursday, June 25, 2009

U.S. v. Overton (9th Cir. - June 18, 2009)

We (rightly) go out of our way to abbreviate the names of victims of sexual assault, particularly intrafamilial victims. As Judge Tallman does here.

Given that fact, we should probably also be careful not to unnecessarily include in the opinion facts that make the identity of the victim crystal clear. Of course we'll have to use the defendant's name and his relationship to the victim (here, her stepfather). But we probably need not let everyone know the full name of the daughter's mother (page 7282 of the opinion), and surely we can say that on a particular day, the defendant and his wife "left home for their mutual workplace in Boseman" rather than, as Judge Tallman does, "left home for work at Montana State University (“MSU”) in Bozeman, where they were both employed." Ditto for saying defendant left the nude photographs of his stepdaughter on "his work computer" and "his work computer system" rather than on "his work computer at MSU" and "the MSU computer system." Seems like those changes would make sense.

And I know it would require the use of brackets, but in footnote 11, one option would surely be to quote the indictment so that it read "including by a computer [located at defendant's home address] and computers at [defendant's work]" rather than, as the opinion currently does, publishing the victim's full home address (!) and her mother's workplace. Not hard to figure out who we're talking about when you include the victim's home address and the full names and workplaces of both her parents.

By the way: Twenty years in prison for an otherwise respectable first offender who takes pictures and has sex with his 17-year old stepdaughter and downloads kiddie porn from the internet. Never think, as Overton did here, that "coming clean" with the police about your "addiction" will make everything tolerable. It won't.