The Daily Digest, 4/26/11

Civil commitment proceedings seem to offer a significant loophole to due process guarantees. After serving a prison term, an individual can be found to be a sexually violent predator and serve indefinitely in a mental health facility (with annual “reviews” of that determination).

In the case today, the respondent-defendant was a juvenile when he committed his acts of sexual molestation. If the developing brain theory is true, it’s entirely possible if not plausible that his likelihood of recidivism will decline over time, as his frontal lobe matures. The mental health expert offered an opinion exactly consistent with that theory, but the jury nevertheless found that he met the definition of a SVP.

Another interesting finding by the court in the case today is that, because the proceedings are civil rather than criminal, there is no right to a competency determination in SVP proceedings.

SVP, Juveniles, Developing Brain Theory, Forcible Medication
In re Detention of Morgan, 2011 WL 1344592 (Wash. App. Div. 2011)
Defendant appeals a 2008 jury determination that he is a sexually violent predator (SVP) and his resulting civil commitment. At trial, the State’s expert explained his diagnosis of the Defendant as presently suffering from (1) paraphilia NOS (nonconsent); (2) pedophilia, sexually attracted to females, non-exclusive type; (3) antisocial personality disorder; and (4) schizophrenia. Defendant’s expert disagreed and testified that the Defendant’s brain had likely matured since his offenses, lowering his recidivism risk. The jury entered a verdict finding that the Defendant met the definition of an SVP. The court reviewed and found no error in response to the Defendant’s claims that an in-chambers review of forcibly medicating him for trial. The court also considered whether Defendant had a right to a competency hearing during SVP civil commitment proceedings and found he did not. The court held that due process does not require that a respondent be competent during any SVP proceedings, and that the Defendant’s procedural due process argument fails.

About Nita A. Farahany

Professor of Law and Philosophy, Professor of Genome Sciences and Policy
This entry was posted in Civil, Neuroscience and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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