SJC Rules Convicted Child Rapist’s Photos of Naked Children Are Not Porn

The state’s highest court dismissed child pornography charges against a convicted child rapist who had photocopied images of nude children in his prison cell.

The Supreme Judicial Court said the images, which were taken from a National Geographic magazine, a sociology textbook, and a pamphlet from a nudist colony, did not constitute a “lewd exhibition” so were not considered child pornography under state law.

The court affirmed a Superior Court ruling, which dismissed child pornography charges against John Rex, who is serving time at the Massachusetts Correctional Institution in Norfolk for child rape and other charges.

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On August 31, 2011, corrections officers searched Rex’s cell and found an envelop containing seven grainy black-and-white photocopied images of naked children in a padlocked footlocker assigned to him. Rex admitted the images were his, according to the court.

In its ruling, the SJC pointed to previous cases that found “nudity alone is not enough to render a photograph lewd” and a photo that portrays nudity “does not become child pornography because it is placed in the hands of a pedophile.”

The court reviewed the seven images and found them to be “nonsexual” and not suggestive of anything inappropriate. The court also said there was no indication the photocopied images were derived from the sexual exploitation of the children depicted, and noted the image originated from education or recreational materials readily available to the general public.

PDF: Read the SJC ruling