Following up on last week’s research review, here are some new articles from the ever-controversial practice niche of sexually violent predator cases:
FACTS? WHO CARES ABOUT THE FACTS?!
Once a jury is empaneled to decide whether someone with a prior sex offense conviction is so dangerous to the public that he should be civilly detained, the verdict is a foregone conclusion. Dangerousness is presumed based on the prior conviction, rather than having to be proven.
Researchers Nicholas Scurich and Daniel Krauss confirmed this by giving jury-eligible citizens varying degrees of information in a Sexually Violent Predator (SVP) case and asking them to vote. Some mock jurors were told only that the person had a prior conviction for a sex offense. Others were also given information that the person had a mental abnormality that made him likely to engage in future acts of sexual aggression.
It mattered not a whit. The mock jurors voted to civilly commit at the same rate, whether or not they had heard evidence of current dangerousness.
“The mere fact that a respondent had been referred for an SVP proceeding was sufficient for a majority of participants to authorize commitment,’ the researchers found. “These findings raise concerns about whether the constitutionally required due process occurs in SVP commitment proceedings.”
No surprise, really. In this practice niche more than others, fear and hype often overshadow reason. Sex offenders are not the most appealing human beings, and no one wants to shoulder the responsibility of voting to release someone who could go out and rape or molest again.