Kansas appeals court ‘troubled’ by how sex predator case was handled
Topeka ? The Kansas Court of Appeals on Friday upheld a lower court that denied a petition to release a man being held as a sexually violent predator, but said it was “deeply troubled” by the way his due process rights have been handled.
Matthew B. Griffin has been confined at Larned State Hospital since 2009 for treatment as a sexually violent predator. He was transferred there after completing his sentence for aggravated indecent solicitation of a 12-year-old girl in Saline County in 1996, according to information on the state’s offender registry website.
Kansas is one of several states that allow the continued confinement of people convicted of certain crimes, even after they have served their prison term for a sexually violent crime, if it’s determined they have a mental condition that would make them a danger to the public if they are released.
Under one provision of that law, however, those inmates are entitled to an annual review to determine whether they are eligible to be placed in a “transitional release” program.
Those evaluations also are supposed to be reviewed by the district court that committed the inmate as a sexually violent predator.
In Griffin’s case, the court said, there was no judicial review of his evaluations in four of the first six years of his confinement, even though the hospital had conducted the evaluations.
However, in January 2016, after his seventh evaluation, Griffin’s attorney announced that after reviewing the evaluations, Griffin no longer wished to seek transitional release related to his sixth and seventh evaluations.
Instead, Griffin argued that his commitment was vacated in 2010 when the Saline County District Court failed to review his first evaluation, and that he had been unlawfully confined since that date.
In a 23-page opinion, Judges G. Joseph Pierron Jr., G. Gordon Atcheson and Karen Arnold-Burger said they were, “deeply troubled by the general lack of attention by the district court to the periodic review component of due process for persons confined” under the Sexually Violent Predator Act. “We are also troubled by the difficulty of obtaining any meaningful remedy for such inaction” under the normal legal process.
The court also suggested that the Kansas Legislature clarify the law to make it more specific about exactly when the annual reviews should take place.
But in Griffin’s case, the court said, the proper answer was not to grant him unconditional release, especially since he had not challenged subsequent evaluations and orders that said he still posed a danger to the general public.