In re Quillen, No. 120,184 (Kan. 2021)
Nature of Case: Appellant was civilly committed under Kansas state law, and pursuant to state law sought transitional release. A jury trial was eventually held, though the trial court refused to tender jury instructions which would have required the jury to find that the state was required to prove “that [Appellant’s] mental abnormality or personality disorder makes it seriously difficult for him to control his dangerous behavior.” The state maintained that this element was not required in a hearing on transitional release. Appellant’s petition for release was denied, and he appealed.
Kansas Court of Appeals reversed. Despite the state statute not requiring the state to prove those elements beyond a reasonable doubt in a release hearing, the Court found that in order to comport with constitutional Due Process protections and established caselaw, the state was required to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that Appellant would have serious difficulty controlling his behavior. The state then appealed.
Holding: The Kansas Supreme Court affirmed in part, and reversed in part. The Court agreed with the lower court’s opinion that Due Process requires the state to demonstrate, at a transitional release hearing, that a respondent continues to suffer from a mental abnormality that creates serious difficulty in controlling behavior. The Supreme Court, however, disagreed the the jury instructions did not track these constitutional requirements. The Supreme Court observed that the jury instructions that were submitted at the trial court necessarily required that these standards be met.