Herbert Varner was due for from prison in 1998 after serving time for molesting a 4-year-old girl, when prosecutors had him sent to a state mental institution for sex offenders. He was the first person sentenced under Illinois’ sexually violent person law.
The Arlington (Ill.) Daily Herald says that his attorney told the Illinois Supreme Court yesterday that because it was never proved Varner is unable to control his urges, he deserves a new trial and new chance at freedom. The state maintains that Varner’s mental problems make it likely he will strike again if released.
At issue is the rationale Illinois uses for keeping sex offenders in treatment programs after their criminal sentences are over. As of March, the state had 189 sex offenders undergoing treatment, all of whom were sent to a Joliet facility after serving prison terms.
A recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling requires states to prove sex offenders have mental defects that make it difficult, if not impossible, for them to control their behavior in order to keep them detained. Texas, Massachusetts, Iowa, Wisconsin and Kansas are among the states that have reviewed their laws in the wake of the court’s ruling.
In addition to requesting a new hearing for Varner, his lawyer is asking the Illinois Supreme Court to create specific instructions for judges and juries in these cases.