Ruling in favor of registered sex offender raises questions

by: Greg Suskin Updated:


SOUTH CAROLINA - Marjorie Carroll believes that once someone is on the sex offender register, that person should be listed there for life.

“They're not going to change," Carroll said.  "You have to protect the children."

However, a South Carolina sex offender won a major court battle Wednesday that will remove his name and picture from the life-long public registry.  The state Supreme Court ruled in favor of John Johnson of Florence, who argued the registry wasn't equitable.

The decision raises questions for many about the online sex offender registry, who should be listed there, and for how long.

There are 235 names and pictures on the registry in Rock Hill alone.  On Wednesday, Channel 9 spoke to a Rock Hill man, who's on that list and didn't want to be identified.

"Everyone wants to be forgiven," he said. "No one wants to be reminded of their past all your life."

He spent 10 years in prison for having sex with a minor.  He told Channel 9 he's not that person anymore, and shouldn't be listed as a sex offender now.

"I believe God is a God of second chances, and I believe everybody else should have a second chance," he said.

Currently, anyone on the registry is there for life, unless their conviction is overturned, or if they are pardoned.

Many offenders are listed, even though they are not considered sexual predators.  Some are there for having sex with minors, when they were teens themselves.  Other cases involve people charged with indecent exposure.

16th circuit solicitor Kevin Brackett said for some of those cases, a change could make sense.

"I don't know that there shouldn't be some mechanism for people that have been sort of caught in the web of the registry, that are not truly sexual predators," Brackett said. 

However, he also said the registry is an important tool for public safety.
"Clearly I think the public interest is very strong in alerting the public to individuals who are repeat or sexually violent predators," he said.
Shirley James of York said she feels like some of the people listed on the registry don't belong there. 

"That happened to a friend of mine, even though the case wasn't right, and it ruined his life," she said.

A spokesman for the South Carolina Attorney General's office said they are reviewing the Supreme Court's ruling, and have 10 days to appeal it.