Supreme Court reverses commitment of sex offender Cedrick Ince - KMSP-TV

Minnesota Supreme Court reverses sex offender's commitment

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By STEVE KARNOWSKI
Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -The Minnesota Supreme Court took the unusual step Wednesday of reversing the commitment of a man to the Minnesota Sex Offender Program and sent the case back to a lower court for further proceedings that could result in him going free.

The high court reaffirmed its previous rulings requiring that sex offenders must be found to be "highly likely" to reoffend before courts civilly commit them to the state's secure treatment program, which is the subject of a constitutional challenge in federal court and a debate in the Legislature. But the high court justices said judges need to make formal findings of fact on whether less restrictive treatment programs are available.

Questions remain over whether the sex offender program is constitutional because only two men have ever been released on any kind of provisional discharge. Justice Alan Page wrote a pointed but nonbinding concurrence saying the Legislature has created "a single one-size-fits-all" system without adequate facilities and treatment programs and has failed to provide less restrictive alternatives.

"It is equally clear that we, as a court, have failed in our obligations to ensure that commitment ... is not merely a form of preventive detention," Page wrote.

Eric Janus, president and dean of the William Mitchell College of Law, said the state's appellate courts have decided about 400 sex offender commitment cases and that "you can count on fewer than the fingers of two hands the number of cases that have been reversed." Janus also noted that Page has been a "persistent critic" of the program and has dissented in several previous cases.

Teresa Nelson, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota, said it was "really kind of astounding" that the high court had not previously declared that judges need to formally address whether less restrictive treatment options are available.

The case of Cedrick Scott Ince involves some other unusual circumstances, too.

Ince, a convicted sex offender, was allowed to leave prison on intensive supervised release and apparently stayed out of trouble for eight months before a judge decided he should be taken back into custody and committed to the program. The Supreme Court ruled that the judge should have made clearer findings.

So, the justices sent the case back to Sibley County District Court "to reevaluate whether appellant is highly likely to engage in acts of harmful sexual conduct and whether a less restrictive alternative for treatment is available."

The lower court could still ultimately find that Ince meets the requirements for civil commitment. But one of his lawyers, Anthony Nerud, said they expect the judge to hold a hearing on Ince's status next week. Because the Supreme Court reversed Ince's commitment, he said, they'll argue that he should be freed on intensive supervised release pending a final ruling.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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