The state's highest court heard arguments today in a case that could decide whether judges have the ability to force convicted sex offenders to wear GPS bracelets.
The sex offender at the center of today’s hearing was the subject of a FOX Undercover report earlier this week. The mother of his victim, who was 7-years old when he was kidnapped and raped, told FOX Undercover that she fears another child will be molested without closer scrutiny of him.
Ralph Goodwin, a Level 3 sex offender, is not wearing a GPS bracelet now as he walks around his Lowell neighborhood filled with children. He lives across the street from a playground.
He was released last year after spending nearly 20 years in prison. He pleaded guilty in 1990 to luring his victim away with a game of hide-and-seek, then raping him repeatedly throughout the night. The following morning he put the boy in a cardboard box, carried him outside and left him on a street corner so a cab he called would pick the boy up and take him home. Before going to prison, he was investigated for allegedly molesting five other children in 1980s.
FOX Undercover caught up with Goodwin as he left his apartment.
“Do you think you should be monitored by GPS, sir?,” FOX Undercover reporter Mike Beaudet asked him.
“No, I don't,” he replied.
“Do you still have urges to molest children?” Beaudet asked.
“I don't molest children,” Goodwin replied.
“Are you dangerous?” Beaudet asked.
“No, I'm not. Please leave me alone,” Goodwin said.
Before today’s hearing, the Middlesex District Attorney’s office tried to get a Superior Court judge to put a GPS bracelet on Goodwin, but the judge, Kathe Tuttman, refused, claiming her hands were tied. She cited a ruling from the state's highest court last year, which stated the 2006 law requiring sex offenders on probation to wear GPS devices cannot be applied to sex offenders convicted before the law passed.
But the victim’s mother told FOX Undercover that the judge made a bad decision letting Goodwin out without a GPS device.
“He should have had it on there. The day he got out of prison. The day he got out,” she said.
Now the DA’s office is trying again to have a GPS device put on Goodwin, arguing before the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court today that judges do have discretion to order GPS monitoring in cases like Goodwin’s.
The state’s public defenders, representing Goodwin, say he should not have to wear a GPS bracelet because it would be a burden on his liberty and privacy.
During the hearing, Justice Judith Cowin asked why a tracking device shouldn’t be put on Goodwin since his freedom is already limited by his having to report to a probation office every day.
“So why couldn't wearing a GPS bracelet be part of intensive supervision as the sentencing judge ordered?,” Cowin asked.
“Because (of) the intensive supervision that's in place now. He's compliant with. It's working,” replied Goodwin’s attorney, Beth L. Eisenberg.
The SJC is expected to issue a written decision within 130 days.