Jun 8, 2005

Not your usual SVP

In case anyone of you fine people noticed, I haven't been posting lately because I was serving on a jury this past week. This is the second time I've served on a jury, and I have to say that for a civil case, it was quite interesting.

We the jurors were given a task to determine whether Ava Zinlu meets the criteria put forth by the California sexually violent predator statute. You can read the details about the case here, as it has just been published in the local paper.

(Oh, and let me take this opportunity to mention that we were in the same courtroom as the Scott Peterson trial. Not that I'm bragging or anything. I just find it an interesting bit of trivia.)

We rendered our decision today, which is why I am now free to discuss the case. We heard testimony after testimony from psychiatrists and psychologists, all testifying as to the emotional state of Mr. Zinlu, and whether or not they think he fits within the SVP criteria. At times the proceedings plodded along, other times the testimony appealed to my inner nerd.

So I come across this article from the Sacramento Bee dated April 6, 2004. (For legal reasons, I have to state that I found this article AFTER the case was finished. So there.) Here are some little-known facts (by me) about the CA SVP statute:
  • California's unique version of the statute gives these people a recurring chance (every two years) to exit the program without having received any treatment.
  • The burden of proof is on the state, not on the SVP.
  • Of the 367 ex-convicts in CA's SVP program, more than 60% refuse any therapy.
  • Staff can't force those committed to participate in therapy.
California's two-year "re-try" rule costs the state some big money. The psychiatric evaluations for SVPs cost $2,500, and each patient enrolled in the SVP program costs $110,000 a year. The Governator had the opportunity to close this two-year loophole by a budget amendment introduced April 1. And since this article was written in 2004, I don't know if this loophole has been closed. But judging by the California website link above, it hasn't been. The two-year rule still appears.

So here I am, feeling good that I was part of the decision-making process to keep this guy off the streets, only to find that in two years, he's up for re-evaluation again. The first time this went to trial, the jury was split, and there was a mistrial. Today, we managed to keep this guy in a state hospital.

I'm going to drop the Governator an email telling him what I think of this stupid two-year loophole and persuade him to close it, if he hasn't already. Want to join me? Here's the link.


Old Horsetail Snake said...

I would always vote for a 100-year loophole.

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