BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) -- A North Dakota task force is exploring tougher penalties and more stringent supervision for convicted sex offenders, including the possibility of a mandatory life prison sentence, without parole, for violent sex crimes.
Some of the proposals are influenced by the case of Joseph Edward Duncan III, a former Fargo resident who is accused of killing three people at a north Idaho home, and kidnapping and molesting two youngsters from the home.
The task force, which is headed by Gov. John Hoeven, helped push an assortment of new sex-offender sanctions through the Legislature this year, including a mandatory life sentence for a sex crime that results in the victim's death.
Other sex crimes were made eligible for life sentences, and the maximum prison terms for several sex offenses were doubled.
The group, which includes law enforcement officers, attorneys and legislators, began discussing more potential changes on Wednesday. Hoeven's legal counsel, Duane Houdek, suggested requiring judges who are considering bail amounts for people accused of sex crimes to provide written justification if they decide to grant bail.
Another option would be to require sex offenders, when they seek bail, to explain how they are not a potential threat to the community, Houdek said. Otherwise, bail would be denied.
In Duncan's case, "what you'd hope it would do is ensure that his status as a high-risk sex offender ... would have been communicated to the judge," Houdek said. "The judge would have had to consider his past, the current charge, and would have had to say why this person is safe, without any kind of supervision, out on the street."
Those ideas could be presented to the North Dakota Supreme Court as changes to the state's rules of criminal procedure, said Northwest District Judge Douglas Mattson, who is a task force member. The Supreme Court is presently considering an assortment of rules changes, and has scheduled an Oct. 25 hearing to listen to comment about them.
Before Duncan was arrested and charged in connection with the Idaho slayings, he had been charged with molesting a 6-year-old boy in Detroit Lakes, Minn. During an April 5 hearing, a judge set Duncan's bail at $15,000.
Duncan had previously served almost 17 years in Washington state prison for child rape. During the hearing, the judge was told Duncan was a sex offender, but he was not told of the seriousness of Duncan's criminal record.
Adam Hamm, a Fargo attorney and
former Cass County prosecutor, suggested that someone who is convicted of a violent rape, or a sex offense against a child, should be sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole.
The state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation is planning to require some sex offenders who are on probation to wear tracking devices, which can be used to trace their movements and ensure they don't visit places where they are barred from going.
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