Protect Missouri Children works to get law changed on repeat child sex offenders

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PLATTE CITY, Mo. -- If a person is a repeat child sexual offender in Missouri a jury isn't allowed to know about their prior offenses until the defendant is found guilty.

Platte County Prosecuting Attorney Eric Zahnd chairs a committee which is trying to amend the Missouri Constitution to allow jurors to hear about a defendant’s prior acts of abuse.

Imagine for a minute that you're a juror, or that your loved one had been molested. Would you want to know if the defendant is a repeat child sexual predator?

“In other states if a judge allows the evidence to be admitted, juries can hear about that. In Missouri we don't even have the possibility of that getting to the jury, the right thing to do subject to a judges discretion a jury to know the full truth about what a defendant may have done in the past,” said Eric Zahnd, a Platte County Prosecuting Attorney.

Zahnd says he believes if a defendant's criminal past is permitted in court it may lead to more convictions of repeat child molesters and could protect children.

“I've had juries in cases where defendants have been found not guilty and we talked to them later and we say one of the reason we had to try this very difficult case is because he had done it in the past and jurors say my gosh, if only I had known that,” he said.

Under Missouri’s current law jurors are only allowed to hear about a defendant's past acts of abuse during the sentencing phase of the trial. That's something Zahnd and other members of the group Protect Missouri Children hope to change in November when Constitutional Amendment Two goes on the ballot.

“We were very lucky he was actually found guilty because if he wasn't then we would not have been heard at all,” said NaToyia Wilson, who was a victim of child molestation.

Wilson says she was abused by her uncle when she was a child and was able to share what happened to her before he was sentenced to life in prison.

CLICK HERE for more information about Constitution Amendment Two.

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