Lawyers Cry Foul Over Adam Walsh Amendment to 2257

John Stuart
RICHMOND, Va. — Computer forensic experts and an attorney who handles obscenity cases have testified in court that a new federal law makes it difficult for them to defend clients accused of downloading child pornography.

Lawyers for David Knellinger have asked U.S. District Court Judge Robert Payne to strike down a provision in the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act, which President Bush signed last July.

The provision prevents lawyers and forensic experts from obtaining copies of child porn contraband that would assist in preparing their client’s defense. Existing conditions force lawyers and forensic experts to work in government laboratories.

“An expert likes to work in his own laboratory,” attorney H. Louis Sirkin, an expert witness in the Knellinger case, told XBIZ. “If he can’t do it in his own laboratory, he simply won’t get involved. They also like to use their own equipment and the cost of simulating that in a government laboratory would be astronomical.”

Sirkin explained that experts need to study the contraband videos to learn whether they are real or virtual.

“You have to do a mirror digital image, and you have to compare it,” Sirkin explained. “They have to go through variations to learn whether it’s a virtual child or a real child, when it was downloaded and other things. So it’s not just a matter of turning a switch and taking a look at a picture.”

Sirkin added that the Supreme Court has indicated that a virtual image of a child is not child pornography, and therefore is not a crime.

The provision of the Adam Walsh law under attack in the Knellinger case states that the child pornography material cannot be viewed outside the control of the government, according to Sirkin.

“Equal justice for all means equal to the defendant as well as the government,” Sirkin said. “We should all be playing on the same ground. We want to view the evidence in the same uninhibited environment that the government has.

“But somewhere in the Department of Justice, they don’t want equal justice. They want one-sided justice, and I don’t know where that lesson has been lost.”

Knellinger is charged with four counts of receiving child porn, and one count each of possession and attempted distribution.