Kansas Supreme Court Denies Sexual Offender’s Petition for Transitional Release
Recent Cases in Law and Neuroscience, Curated by the Center for Law, Brain & Behavior and the Shen Neurolaw Lab with support from the Dana Foundation
In this 2021 case the Kansas Supreme Court affirmed a district court’s decision to deny Richard Quillen’s petition for transitional release from civil commitment. Despite Quillen’s argument that a stroke prevented him from future sex-offending, the Court decided that he would be at-risk for re-offending if released back into the community, because the stroke damaged an area of the brain that is thought to regulate impulse control.
In the 1990s, Quillen was convicted of multiple sex crimes involving children. The State petitioned for him to be civilly committed as a sexually violent predator under the Kansas Sexually Violent Predator Act (KSVPA) before his release date. While committed, Quillen petitioned for transitional release during an annual review of his mental health condition and was subsequently denied. The Court of Appeals remanded to the district court where Quillen underwent an independent evaluation from Dr. Robert Barnett, who determined Quillen should not be placed in transitional release and would likely engage in acts of sexual violence. Quillen was then ordered to remain in the custody of the Kansas Department of Aging and Disability Services (KDADS). He appealed again but before the second trial could take place, Quillen suffered a stroke that left him partially paralyzed and with an impaired ability to walk, talk, and write.
In 2017, Quillen moved for discharge, arguing that a permanent physiological change from the stroke rendered him unable to commit a sexually violent offense in the future. In 2018, when Quillen’s case proceeded to trial, Dr. Barnett testified that Quillen was not presently a pedophile, nor did he have a personality disorder of any type. He criticized the assessments used to determine Quillen’s risk of reoffending, adding that the stroke’s effects would also make it more difficult to reoffend because his physical impairments and difficulty communicating would be a hindrance to grooming a potential victim. Dr. Barnett also testified that Quillen’s history of controlling his behavior while in the program was evidence that Quillen would behave “fairly well” if placed in transitional release.
On appeal, the State presented testimony from several witnesses who disagreed on whether Quillen was prepared to be placed in transitional release. Brad Base, owner and president of Sunflower Psychological Services, testified that he had conducted Quillen’s annual reviews in 2016 and 2017 and had diagnosed Quillen with pedophilia and personality disorders. Dr. Tomas Garza testified about Quillen’s ability to commit sexually violent offenses since strokes rarely affect sexual function. Dr. Marc corroborated by pointing out that none of the effects of Quillen’s stroke would reverse his pedophilia and personality disorder diagnoses. Dr. Marc added that the stroke may have exacerbated behaviors contributing to Quillen’s personality disorder diagnosis. During his testimony, Dr. Quillen added that the respondent’s stroke may also negatively affect Quillen’s impulse control due to the affected area in Quillen’s brain. He concluded that Quillen was not safe to be placed in transitional release due to the likelihood of him reoffending.
The jury ultimately found Quillen was not safe to be placed in transitional release and should remain in secure confinement. Based on the jury’s verdict, the district court ordered Quillen to remain committed. Quillen moved for a new trial, objecting to the jury instructions. Quillen appealed, arguing that principles of substantive due process required the State to show that he had serious difficulty controlling his behavior.
The Kansas Supreme Court observed that “the standard for transitional release as included in jury instruction created a nexus between mental illness and dangerousness that necessarily implied that Quillen had serious difficulty controlling his behavior.” Accordingly, the Supreme Court found the jury instructions were legally appropriate. The judgement of the district court to keep Quillen committed was affirmed.
Keywords: brain damage, pedophilia, stroke, transitional release, Kansas
Citation: Matter of Quillen, 312 Kan. 841 (2021).
This post is the 125th post as part of an ongoing Center for Law, Brain & Behavior (CLBB) series tracking the latest developments in law and neuroscience cases. To see previous posts about recent cases, see the full case archive on the CLBB website. To see updates on legal scholarship, see the Neurolaw News, hosted by the MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Law and Neuroscience. This project is made possible through support of the Dana Foundation.