Archive for the ‘Sexually violent predator civil commitment’ Category

Decision: In re Colt

July 17, 2009

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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Decision: In re Miller

July 17, 2009

July 10th. The Kansas Supreme Court has issued its opinion in the case of In re Care and Treatment of Miller (No. 97,273), an appeal against indefinite detention as a sexually violent predator. In a 5-2 decision, written by Justice Carole Beier, the Court held that Richard Miller was properly committed despite the use of evidence of his committing other crimes being introduced at his commitment hearing. In doing so the Court held that its State v. Gunby holding limiting the use of prior bad acts did not apply to persistent sex-offender commitment proceedings. 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.

Richard Miller committed aggravated criminal sodomy on a 15 year old girl in 1980. He was convicted of burglary in 1992. He has a long criminal history, rich with other crimes and court appearances. The Johnson County DA sought to commit him as a sexually violent predator. Kansas law provides that someone who has been convicted or charged with a sex-offense and who has a mental abnormality that makes them likely to commit further acts in the future may be indefinitely committed, provided a Jury finds that they are a sexually violent predator.

At trial, evidence was introduced by various means about past offenses that Miller had been charged with where the charges were dropped. These included an attempted rape charge that stemmed from a burglary he committed on a duplex where a minor was in the bath. Evidence of non-sexual crimes was also introduced (including the 1992 burglary).

On appeal, Miller argued that this evidence amounted to evidence of prior bad acts being used in contravention of K.S.A. 60-455, which limits the use of this evidence to ensure a fair trial in the case at hand. The Kansas Supreme Court’s decision in State v. Gunby has further restricted the use of this evidence through its construction of this statute.

The Court determined that neither K.S.A. 60-455 nor Gunby apply to proceedings such as this. It cited a case which preceded Gunby (State v. Hay) which held that K.S.A. 60-455 did not apply to such cases since it exists to prevent a criminal’s propensity to have committed one particular crime being used to prove that they have in fact committed another particular crime. In contrast, in these proceedings the determination is forward facing – determining whether the criminal is likely to commit another crime in the future.

Miller’s appeal was thus dismissed, along with a number of other objections he had raised (e.g. that the State should not have been allowed to introduce witnesses to prove the 1980 crime since Miller had been willing to stipulate to it). All of Miller’s claims were rejected, but the holding regarding K.S.A. 60-455 is doubtlessly the most significant.

Justice Eric Rosen dissented, expressing frustration that the Court’s Gunby decision was being curtailed. He would have held that K.S.A. 60-455 did apply to these cases and that the sort of evidence the majority opinion would allow to be admitted would jeopardize defendants rights to a fair trial. He noted that the Legislature had crafted these type of commitment proceedings after criminal law, by introducing a jury. Judge Standridge joined Justice Rosen’s dissent.