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Ohio Supreme Court Will Decide Whether Sex Offender Labels Are 'Cruel and Unusual'

The Ohio Supreme Court will decide whether it's cruel and unusual punishment to label as a sex offender a 21-year-old man who was convicted after what he said was a consensual sexual relationship with a 15-year-old girl. Statehouse correspondent Karen Kasler reports on arguments in the case heard this week.

Travis Blankenship of Clark County was labeled a sex offender - a mandatory sentence under Ohio law for his 2012 conviction for having sex with a minor. His attorney Katherine Ross Kinzie told the court a psychologist determined Blankenship isn't likely to reoffend, so that sentence is unconstitutionally harsh.

"The registration for 25 years - everything that goes along with his Senate Bill 10 requirements to be classified and register as a sex offender."

But Clark County Assistant Prosecutor Ryan Saunders says Blankenship pleaded guilty, so the label and its requirements are appropriate.

"Mr. Blankenship committed a crime. He was 21. He had sex with a 15 year old. And as part of that, he's a sex offender."

Ohio is one of 17 states that enacted the mandatory sex offender label after passage of a federal law in 2006. Ohio's supreme court would be the first to rule on it.

Tony Ganzer has reported from Phoenix to Cairo, and was the host of 90.3's "All Things Considered." He was previously a correspondent with the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation, covering issues like Swiss banks, Parliament, and refugees. He earned an M.A. in International Relations (University of Leicester); and a B.Sc. in Journalism (University of Idaho.) He speaks German, and a bit of French.