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Judge will revisit man's claim that he shouldn't be forced onto sex offender registry

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PORTLAND, Maine — A Maine judge needs more information before deciding whether a man's rights were violated by legislative action requiring him to be placed on the state sex offender registry retroactively, the state supreme court ruled Tuesday.

The Supreme Judicial Court ruled in the case of a man, identified in court as John Doe, who served 72 hours in jail in 2003 after pleading guilty to possession of child pornography.

At the time, the conviction didn't require him to be on the sex offender registry. But that changed later that year when lawmakers updated the list of crimes mandating placement on the registry.

The supreme court ruling vacated a Superior Court judge's decision to reject Doe's lawsuit challenging the requirement to register as a sex offender. More information must be presented before the judge reconsiders the defendant's claim that lawmakers illegally circumvented the judicial process to target him for extra punishment.

Unlike some previous class-action lawsuits attacking Maine's sex offender registry, the case applied to a small number of people — those convicted of offenses that don't involve sexual contact with a victim.

"Because of the limited effect of this decision, more legislation may not be necessary, although we will be briefing the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee on this and other (sex offender registry) issues in due course," Tim Feeley, spokesman for the attorney general's office, said in a statement.

Bruce Merrill, an attorney for the man, said it will take time to sort out whether his client is the only one in his class of defendants to be required to retroactively register as a sex offender.

"The issue is how small is that number? I have a feeling it's very small — as small as one," Merrill said.

Maine's sex offender registry has gone through a number of changes since it was created in 1992. It attracted national attention in 2006 when a 20-year-old Canadian man killed two sex offenders in Maine, then himself, after randomly getting their names from the state's online registry.

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