When Diana Thornsberry sent her 12-year-old daughter for a sleepover next door March 29, 1995, she had no idea that her neighbor’s 17-year-old son had been convicted two years earlier of raping a 7-year-old girl. Because Kentucky law protects juvenile offenders, she found out about Jeremy Gipson’s record only after he raped, sodomized and murdered her daughter Jessica, then dumped her body in Louisville’s Iroquois Park, reports the Louisville Courier-Journal. The attorney general at the time promised Thornsberry that her daughter’s death would not be in vain.
But 10 years later Kentucky still prosecutes juveniles behind closed doors, then locks away their records. The result: Nobody knows whether a dangerous juvenile is in their midst, or whether Kentucky is getting its money’s worth for the tens of millions of dollars it spends on prosecution, treatment and rehabilitation of young offenders. Kentucky shrouds its juvenile courts behind some of the strictest secrecy laws in the nation, requiring the public to accept on faith that it is being protected from dangerous children — and that innocent children are being protected from dangerous adults.