STOP SEX OFFENDERS | KS: High court weighs sexual-predator laws
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KS: High court weighs sexual-predator laws.

October 31, 2001

High court weighs sexual-predator laws Kansas, wanting to hold an offender for treatment past his term, is challenging a state court ruling. By Kevin Murphy INQUIRER WASHINGTON BUREAU WASHINGTON - The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments yesterday in a Kansas case that could have a nationwide impact on when imprisoned sex offenders can go free.

It is the second time the justices have taken up Kansas' 1994 sexual-predator law. In 1997, the court upheld the law on broader constitutional issues, prompting other states to adopt similar measures.

Yesterday's argument focused on a single issue. Kansas Attorney General Carla Stovall asked the court to strike down a Kansas Supreme Court ruling last year that sex offender Michael T. Crane could not be detained for treatment beyond his prison term unless the state proved he was unable to control his behavior.

Crane, convicted in 1993 for assaulting a video store clerk in Leawood, Kan., has a long history of sex offenses and suffers from personality disorders, Stovall told the court.

After he completed his prison sentence, a jury found that Crane's personality disorder made him likely to commit additional crimes, and he was consigned to the state's predator treatment unit.

Crane's lawyer, John Donham, said yesterday that the Kansas Supreme Court ruled correctly last year that Crane cannot be held for treatment as a sexual predator unless a jury finds that he cannot control his behavior.

The state court cited the 1997 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the case of pedophile Leroy Hendricks of Wichita, the first man committed to the Kansas predator program.

Nineteen states now have laws permitting the detention of sexual predators beyond their prison terms. There are about 1,200 people in those states committed as sexual predators.

"Because the laws are so similar, the states are all looking at what this decision does," Stovall said after the one-hour hearing on Kansas v. Crane. The high court could set "a brand-new constitutional standard, and it will affect every state."

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Source: 2001 The Philadelphia Inquirer