Decision: In re Colt

July 10th. The Kansas Supreme Court has issued its opinion in the case of In re the Treatment and Care of Colt (No. 98,105), a sexually violent predator indefinite commitment case. In a 5-2 decision, written by Justice Carol Beier, the Court held that evidence of prior bad acts admitted at Colt’s hearing was not prohibited under the Court’s State v. Gunby decision, and that the admission of non-sex related crimes was not problematic either.Justice Eric Rosen, joined by a temporarily appointed member of the Court, dissented and would have applied Gunby to these proceedings. Note: Judge Melissa Standridge of the Court of Appeals served on the Court in place of former Chief Justice Kay McFarland.

John Colt had a long criminal history, and a history of psychiatric problems. In 2001 he was convicted of aggravated sexual battery and aggravated burglary after breaking into a neighbor’s apartment and attempting to rape them. The Shawnee County District Attorney moved to have Colt detained indefinitely as a sexually violent predator. A jury found that he was one and the judge ordered his detention.

Colt appealed his detention. He argued that the introduction of evidence concerning his past crimes should have been prohibited under the Kansas Supreme Court’s decision in State v. Gunby which restricted the ways in which the State could refer to prior crimes by a defendant in proving its case. He also argued that most of his criminal history related to non-sex crimes and therefore should not have been admitted.

The Kansas Supreme Court disagreed. Citing In re Miller, decided on the same day and which covered the same issues, the Court held that K.S.A. 60-455 (the prior bad acts statute) and State v. Gunby did not apply to civil commitment proceedings. Furthermore the Court held that the non-sex crimes raised in evidence were relevant and probative. In finding this, the Court pointed out that at issue in sexually violent predator commitment proceedings is not the detail of the criminal history, but what the fact of it says about the defendant’s mental state. In this case the long criminal record, contributed to the psychological diagnosis that allowed Colt’s commitment.

Justice Eric Rosen, joined by Judge Standrige dissented with a single line referring to his dissent in In re Miller.

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