Olympia - - The U. S. Supreme Court is reviewing a 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision in a case that casts doubt on the constitutionality of the state’s Sexually Violent Predator Law as it applies to a 10-year resident of the state’s Special Commitment Center (SCC) for sex offenders.
Andre Brigham Young claims he is being punished a second time because the Department of Social and Health Services, which operates the SCC, has failed to provide him with adequate treatment and subjected him to punitive conditions. Young is seeking release from the SCC, claiming the sex predator law violates the Double Jeopardy and Ex Post Facto clauses of the U.S. Constitution by punishing him twice for the same crimes. .
The state argues that a 1997 U.S. Supreme Court case upheld a Kansas statute that was virtually identical to Washington’s sexual predator law. Young and others assert their confinement is such that they are treated like criminals rather than patients in a mental health facility and the statute is unconstitutional as applied to him. The state contends that if required treatment is not being provided, the proper remedy is to improve the treatment and not declare the statute invalid and release Young.
"The 9th Circuit decision casts serious doubt on our ability to civilly commit these dangerous sex predators," said Attorney General Christine Gregoire. "Washington has been a leader in protecting the public from sexually violent predators, and we are going to fight to keep our communities safe."
The 9th Circuit agreed that the language of the Washington law is valid but ruled that Young had alleged facts which, if true, would show that he was being punished. It sent the case back to the district court for a hearing on that question.
Young was committed to the SCC in March of 1991. He appealed his commitment directly to the Washington Supreme Court, challenging the constitutionality of the Sexually Violent Predator statute on a variety of constitutional grounds. In August 1993, the court upheld the law.
Following that decision, Young filed a habeas corpus petition in federal district court in Seattle. That court held the statute unconstitutional, but refused to order Young’s release. The state then appealed to the 9th Circuit.
After the U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision in the 1997 Kansas case, the 9th Circuit returned Young’s case to the district court for reconsideration. On Feb. 10, 1998, the district court upheld the statute’s constitutionality and dismissed Young’s petition. Young appealed to the 9th Circuit, which upheld the district court, but sent the case back to determine whether the conditions of confinement at the SCC amounted to punishment.
Washington’s Sexually Violent Predator Statute was part of the Community Protection
Act that was passed by the Legislature in 1990. It was designed to protect the public from violent sexual predators by detaining them for treatment in a secure facility until they are safe to return to society. Since the statute was enacted, 75 sexually violent predators have been committed to the SCC at McNeil Island and another 59 are awaiting trial.
The case was to be argued in the Supreme Court on Oct. 31, with a decision likely by June 2001.
U.S. Supreme Court Brief. MS Word, 118K
Reply Brief MS Word, 82K
Statistics on Washington’s Sexually Violent Predators Statute