Flanked by Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist, State Representative Dick Muri, and others, Governor Jay Inslee signed House Bill 2271 into law on March 27.
The new law will help prevent the release of sexually violent predators (SVP) into our community.
The bill was prompted by a recent Washington State Supreme Court case, in regards to the detention of John Marcum, which potentially entitled SVPs to a new unconditional release trial each time an annual review found a less restrictive placement or conditional release was appropriate even if the SVP had not shown progress in treatment.
The bill is known as “The Marcum Fix,” taking its name from convicted sex offender John Marcum.
“This fix helps keep the community safe and helps save money and time by preventing automatic and unnecessary court proceedings,” Lindquist said.
The bill was sponsored by Muri of Steilacoom, who worked with the Pierce County Prosecutor’s Office on the language of the new law.
“We cannot risk releasing dangerous sex predators into our local communities unconditionally when they haven’t completed their treatment and may be likely to reoffend,” Muri said. “Additionally, the Marcum decision could result in as many as 100 new trials every year, boosting court costs by as much as $7.8 million. Not only would this be a huge cost to taxpayers, but it could mean allowing violent sex offenders back into our neighborhoods to find their next victims. That’s totally unacceptable and why I authored this legislation.”
At the time of the Supreme Court opinion in 2017, Marcum had been civilly committed as an SVP for more than 15 years, following multiple convictions for sex crimes against children, including a conviction while he was on community placement for prior sex offenses. He admitted to sexually assaulting 21 boys between the ages of 5 and 13 over a five-year period of time. He also admitted to dating women to gain access to their children, grooming victims and their family members, and choosing a child who was an “outcast” or the “lowest in the family pecking order.”
Marcum was residing at the Special Commitment Center on McNeil Island. He had been returned to the SCC after his less restrictive alternative was revoked due to deterioration of his behavior in ways unrelated to sexual offending.
Following his return to the SCC, Marcum did not participate in further sexual offender treatment. After about two years, Marcum petitioned for an unconditional release from the SCC pursuant to an annual review. The Supreme Court determined that Marcum was entitled to a full trial for an unconditional release “based solely on the fact that [he] may qualify for conditional release.”
The legislative fix takes effect immediately. Prior to the Marcum case, the state had a two-pronged burden to show a conditional release is not appropriate. House Bill 2271 returns the system to the way it operated before the state Supreme Court’s decision.
“We appreciate Representative Muri’s leadership on this common sense bill to help keep our community safe,” Lindquist said.
In this short legislative session this bill almost did not make it to the floor for a vote. Once votes were cast, however, it passed unanimously in both chambers.
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