Appeals court: Sexual predator deserves new trial

He’s seeking release from state’s Special Commitment Center

By Stephanie Rice, Columbian Vancouver city government reporter

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A sexually violent predator deserves a new trial on the issue of whether he should be released from the state’s Special Commitment Center, the Court of Appeals has ruled.

In 2009, a Clark County jury denied Anthony D. Jacka’s request for unconditional release.

A three-judge appellate panel ruled last week that the trial judge improperly limited Jacka’s attorney from fully cross-examining adverse witnesses about the source of Jacka’s anger.

Jacka, 43, was sentenced to prison in 1990 after he admitted raping a 14-year-old girl at knifepoint and attempting to rape a woman sleeping next to her child, according to court documents.

He has admitted committing other crimes as a teenager for which he was never charged, including breaking into homes to masturbate while watching women sleep.

When he was nearing the end of his prison term, the attorney general’s office successfully petitioned in 1999 to have Jacka civilly committed as a sexually violent predator at the McNeil Island treatment center.

During his 2009 trial on whether he should be judged safe enough to be released, jurors heard from staff members who said Jacka doesn’t fight or exhibit sexually deviant behavior.

Jacka told jurors he has completed a mix of classes and therapies that have taught him how to manage his anger, develop social skills and identify triggers that could cause him to re-offend. A class on “sexual arousal modification” was of particular help, he said.

Jacka told jurors he’s a much different person than the young man who committed those crimes.

“My moral center has changed dramatically,” he told jurors.

But jurors, who also heard about Jacka’s anger, rejected his petition.

Among the issues raised on appeal, Jacka’s attorney, Lisa Tabbut of Longview, argued that Judge Robert Harris (now retired) limited what evidence could come in regarding Jacka’s anger.

The defense wanted to allow a doctor from the Special Commitment Center to testify that Jacka’s anger was linked to the fact that staff members had recommended three times that Jacka be allowed a conditional release but those recommendations were denied.

Under a conditional release, a resident leaves the treatment center but moves into either a halfway house or a department-operated “less restrictive alternative” facility.

The state convinced Harris that jurors should not hear about the option of conditional release, because Jacka had petitioned for an unconditional release and jurors might be confused.

“The trial court refused, however, to permit Jacka to introduce evidence about the conditional release recommendations he had received and his anger over being denied such release,” Judge Christine Quinn-Brintnall wrote in the opinion. “The trial court accepted the state’s argument that such testimony would confuse the issues in an unconditional release trial and invite the jury to reach an impermissible middle ground.”

Quinn-Brintnall wrote that limiting the evidence “deprived Jacka of his due process rights.”

Chief Judge Joel Penoyar and Judge David Armstrong concurred.

Assistant Attorney General Sarah Sappington couldn’t be reached Tuesday to see if she planned to appeal to the Washington Supreme Court.