Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Sex Offender Charged with Murder

Curtis S. Thompson, who spent 17 years in prison on rape convictions, has been charged with first-degree murder for the 2004 stabbing of a local woman (Deborah S. Byars). Convicted sex offender charged in 2004 slaying, Seattle Times, Aug. 22, 2006.

Thompson was convicted of four rapes in 1985. Before he was due to be released from prison (about 2002), prosecutors tried to have him committed as a sexually violent predator (see RCW 71.09).

They argued that Thompson had a history of sexual sadism, had refused sex-offender treatment in prison and was likely to offend again.

But a King County jury was swayed by his attorney's arguments that he had been a model prisoner and developed good relationships with women who worked for the Department of Corrections during his incarceration.
I imagine that some people are saying that it was wrong to release him from prison or that the jury was wrong not to find that he was a sexually violent predator. But that's hindsight. If the current allegations are true, then he did offend again. But, on the evidence they heard, should jurors have found beyond a reasonable doubt that Thompson had “a mental abnormality or personality disorder” that made him “likely to engage in predatory acts of sexual violence if not confined in a secure facility”? (see RCW 71.09.020(16), 71.09.060(1)) We can’t expect juries to be omniscient. And if we lowered the standard of proof, then we’d risk depriving of their liberty more people who were not risks to the community. I'm not at all saying that Ms. Byars's death was OK -- just that predicting it and preventing it might have been harder than one would think.

UW note: The prosecutor quoted in the article is Trial Ad instructor Scott O’Toole.

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