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Archive for Tuesday, October 16, 2001

Sexual predator law under review

Atty. Gen. Carla Stovall to defend treatment

October 16, 2001

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— For a second time, Kansas Atty. Gen. Carla Stovall is preparing to defend the state's sexual predator law before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Stovall will present arguments Oct. 30 defending the state's practice of keeping sex offenders locked in treatment programs after their release from prison.

In 1997, the justices ruled 5-4 in an earlier Kansas case that the sexual predator law does not violate criminals' constitutional rights.

That case involved convicted pedophile Leroy Hendricks, who testified that he couldn't control his impulses to molest children. He remains in the state's sexual predator treatment unit at Larned State Hospital.

The latest challenge involves Michael Crane, convicted of exposing himself to a tanning salon employee in Johnson County in 1993. Initially, Crane also was found guilty of attempted rape, aggravated sodomy and kidnapping for a second incident involving a video store clerk. But the Kansas Supreme Court overturned those convictions.

State justices said the law violated the due process rights of people who are capable of controlling their behavior.

At issue in Crane's case is whether the Constitution limits a state's ability to detain sex offenders to only those who can be shown to be mentally ill and incapable of controlling their behavior.

Committing an offender under the act "is unconstitutional absent a finding that the defendant cannot control his dangerous behavior," Justice Donald Allegrucci wrote for the Kansas court in July 2000.

Stovall immediately asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review the ruling.

"If the Kansas Supreme Court opinion is adopted, the sexual predator program would be obliterated," Stovall said in a recent interview with The Topeka Capital-Journal. "Hardly anybody, maybe nobody would be committed."

State law defines a sexual predator as, "Any person who has been convicted of or charged with a sexually violent offense and who suffers from a mental abnormality or personality disorder which makes the person likely to engage in repeat acts of sexual violence."

In 1994, psychologist Douglas Hippe found that Crane suffered from exhibitionism and anti-social personality disorder, a mental abnormality that usually shows up in early adolescence and causes sufferers to disregard and violate the rights of others.

People with anti-social personality disorder can control their behavior to some degree, Stovall said, adding that is why they should be required to undergo additional therapy.

Crane's attorney, John Donham, of Olathe, said that the sexual predator law is unconstitutional because it further punishes people who have completed their sentences. He argues that the law should apply only to those who have no behavioral control because of mental illness.

He said the case is an example of the law being used for retribution. Donham said when the rape and kidnapping convictions were overturned, prosecutors comforted the video store clerk who said she had been attacked by telling her that they planned to use the sexual predator law to "keep him (Crane) off the streets."

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