Bite mark key evidence in 'Megan's Law' trial
Girl's murder sparked drive to monitor sex offenders
May 5, 1997
TRENTON, New Jersey (CNN) -- Prosecutors say a bite mark and a confession will be the key pieces of evidence in the trial of a man accused of raping and killing 7-year-old Megan Kanka.
Her 1994 murder sparked a nationwide movement to notify neighbors when a paroled sex offender is living in their midst.
In opening statements Monday, prosecutor Kathryn Flicker said that the state will offer evidence showing that a wound found on the hand of Jesse Timmendequas was inflicted by Kanka's teeth.
"Megan had literally left her mark," Flicker said.
She said Timmendequas, who led police to Kanka's body, gave three separate statements to police confessing to the crime.
Defense questions credibility of witnesses
But defense attorney Barbara Lependorf cautioned jurors not to believe everything police say about the crime.
"Do police officers lie? Do police officers shade the truth?," she said. "Do police officers make mistakes? Of course, the answer is yes to all of those questions."
She also urged jurors not to let their emotions about the graphic nature of the crime cloud their judgment.
"The death of a child is emotional. But you have to view this analytically, not emotionally," she said.
Prosecutors say accused lured girl with a puppy
Megan Kanka disappeared on the night of July 29, 1994. Timmendequas, who had two prior convictions for sex offenses, lived across the street from the Kanka family in Hamilton Township, a Trenton suburb.
Prosecutors allege that he lured the girl into his house with a promise to let her see a puppy, then raped and killer her.
The public outcry after the murder led New Jersey legislators to pass "Megan's Law," which requires sex offenders to register with police and requires that neighbors be notified when they move into a community.
All 50 states now require registration of sex offenders and all but six require some form of community notification.
However, questions have been raised about whether these laws are constitutional. New Jersey's law has been tied up in the courts ever since its passage in a dispute over whether it should apply to those convicted of sex offenses before the law was enacted.
"I think the registration provisions, which all 50 states have, are, generally speaking, constitutional," says Vivian Berger of the Columbia University School of Law. "The problem arises with respect to the notification provisions."
"These laws do constitute extra punishment, in a practical sense, because people are really branded with the mark of Cain."
If convicted of the charges he faces, Timmendequas could receive the death penalty.Correspondent Mary Ann McGann contributed to this report.
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