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Missouri Sex Abuser Loses Challenge to Custody Law

(CN) - A Missouri law prohibiting people convicted of sex crimes against children from having custody of a child is not unconstitutional, the state Supreme Court ruled. The unanimous opinion reversed a trial court's decision that gave James Randall Cannon unsupervised visitation and joint legal custody of his two children.

Cannon was convicted of first-degree statutory rape and first-degree sodomy of his then 12-year-old stepdaughter. Cannon argued successfully in a state trial court that the state law prohibiting those convicted of a sex crime against a child from having custody of a child violated his First and 14th Amendment rights because it interferes with his fundamental right to associate and maintain a relationship with his children.

But the state Supreme Court disagreed and remanded the case to the trial court. Chief Justice Laura Denvir Smith wrote that the state law "does not deprive Mr. Cannon of his fundamental right to associate with his children. He still is permitted to associate with them so long as his visits are supervised. In light of his felony conviction for statutory rape and sodomy of a child, the legislature's restriction provides a reasonable balance between his right to associate with his children and the state's parens patriae obligation to protect children and to act in their best interests."

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