Supreme Court Hears Arguments in Sex-Offender Law

The Supreme Court heard oral arguments on December 10th in a case involving the confinement of dangerous sex offenders. The case involves state laws designed to keep dangerous, but not mentally ill, sex offenders in mental institutions after they have served their prison sentences. The case is on appeal from the Kansas State Supreme Court which struck down the 1994 Sexually Violent Predator Act and involves repeat child offender Leroy Hendricks. Hendricks, a 62 year-old self described pedophile has been repeatedly imprisoned for sexually assaulting children.

After the expiration of Hendricks’s recent ten-year sentence, the state sent him to a high-security mental hospital. A jury had found that he met two of the Predator Act’s requirements for continued imprisonment: he was likely to repeat his offenses and his behavior was due to a “mental abnormality or personality disorder.” Henrick’s lawyers charge that the state law violates one’s right to due process and the right against double jeopardy. The Kansas Supreme Court ruled that the law was a civil, not criminal procedure and therefore did not violate Henrick’s double jeopardy rights, but it also found that it fell short of due process standards. At least five other states have similar laws and several more are considering them in next year’s legislative session.


The New York Times - December 11, 1996

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