Court to hear case on detaining child sexual predators
December 9, 1996
From Correspondent Anthony Collings
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments Tuesday on whether people who commit sex crimes against children can be detained even after successfully completing their prison sentences.
The case in question involves Leroy Hendricks, who over the past 40 years has been convicted five times of sex crimes against children, including his own stepchildren.
At a 1994 hearing in Wichita, Kansas, a state prosecutor urged that Hendricks not be released even though he had completed his 10-year sentence. Hendricks himself said the only way to be sure he would not abuse another child was if he were dead. (136K/13 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)
Kansas chose to confine him indefinitely as a mentally abnormal person who was a threat to society.
"We are not punishing Mr. Hendricks. We are not sentencing him. We are not having any retribution for him," said Kansas Attorney General Carla Stovall. "What we are doing is providing care and treatment for him."
But Hendricks wants the Supreme Court to set him free.
"He thinks it's very unfair to be incarcerated for what he committed back in 1984, and it's just an extension of the sentence he's already served," said Thomas Weilert, Hendricks' attorney.
Civil libertarians say it is a violation of basic rights to confine someone who is mentally abnormal, but not actually deemed mentally ill.
"If the state of Kansas can confine non-mentally ill people in mental hospitals, then they can confine any of us in mental hospitals, and that's a very dangerous precedent to set," said Chris Hansen of the American Civil Liberties Union.
Five other states have laws letting them keep sex offenders in mental institutions after they finish prison sentences, and some 40 states support Kansas in the Hendricks case.
© 1996 Cable News Network, Inc.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.