Writer Christopher Shea, in an article titled, "In celebration of massive greatness," said that Hessick's posting "may offer a window into how the court might decide a sexting case." Read the entire article here.
Shea notes that in the past the court struck down a law outlawing the sale of videos in which a living animal is intentionally maimed, mutilated, tortured, wounded or killed. But in distinguishing child pornography from videos involving animal cruelty, the court argued that the images deserved zero constitutional protection because they constituted part of the original crime of child abuse.
"Now consider how this reasoning might apply to sexting," Shea writes. "Could anyone argue that self-photographing girls are abusing themselves at the moment they push the digital-camera button? No, the crime, if there is one, would have to occur during the distribution of the images."
Shea points to Hessick's argument:
"We might argue that the teen ought not have taken the picture," Hessick writes, "and if the teen is under the age of consent in his or her jurisdiction perhaps they have no affirmative right to sexual autonomy that would include taking such a picture; however, assuming no involvement by adults in the production of the image, then I simply don't see how the image can be considered a product of child sex exploitation or abuse."
Shea concludes: "Therefore, the argument that the court has constructed to exclude child porn from free-speech protections simply does not fit. Prosecutors and legislators, if they choose the debatable strategy of criminalizing 'sexters,' may have to find a new rationale for their actions."
Hessick teaches criminal procedure, criminal law, and a seminar on sentencing law and policy. Her research focuses on aggravation and mitigation in criminal sentencing, relative crime severity, and other political and doctrinal issues associated with sentencing. She currently is working on a manuscript about the prosecution and punishment of teen sexting.