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I came across your article on lifelong sex-offenders’ registration a few weeks ago in The Recorder (“Lifelong registration ruled not cruel,” June 29). This court ruling prompted me to write to acquaint you with ongoing research being conducted by a New York University medical school forensic psychiatrist into what distinguishes depraved crimes. Today, 39 states allow juries to assign harsher sentences for crimes deemed “heinous,” “depraved” or other words that mean “evil”; yet, at this time, there is no standardized definition for these legal terms — leaving jurors to decide based on their easily manipulated emotions. To address this issue, forensic psychiatrist Michael Welner, an associate professor of psychiatry at NYU School of Medicine, has pioneered research to standardize the specific intents, actions and attitudes (the “what” of a crime, as opposed to the “who” or the “why”) that distinguish certain crimes as beyond the pale, as dictated by societal consensus. Ultimately, the scale will be used as an objective, evidence-based guideline for juries at the sentencing phase of trials. There are 26 items under study in the Depravity Scale via a public, Internet-based confidential survey. Our research is ongoing — and The Recorder readers have a major role to play. As a result of your unique proximity to sometimes unthinkable crimes, you are encouraged to share your insights and complete this survey at http://www.depravityscale.org. In less than 15 minutes, you will make a lasting impact on the way justice is served across the nation for decades to come. Annie Huang New York

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