Supreme Court to hear arguments on releasing sex offenders

The Arizona Supreme Court ruled Wednesday to extend a stay in order to hear arguments on determining whether violent sex offenders should remain at a state hospital or be released.

The Supreme Court, after an appeal by the Attorney General Janet Napolitano and backed up by county attorneys' offices, temporarily blocked a February ruling by the state Court of Appeals to release sex offenders from a state hospital.

The hearing date to hear arguments has not been set, Supreme Court spokesman Richard Travis said.

The appellate court ruled Feb.

15 as unconstitutional a requirement that sex offenders be sentenced to a special treatment program at the Arizona State Hospital in Phoenix after completing their prison terms.

The ruling was based on a Yuma case.

About 140 sex offenders, including two from Mohave County, are confined in the state mental hospital.

Chief Deputy County Attorney Jace Zack said if the Supreme Court upholds the lower court ruling, Mohave County's two sex offenders, Wilber Clarence Wilson, 75, and another man who was never convicted, would be released from the treatment program at the state hospital.

They both committed sex crimes more than three years ago.

Sexually violent offenders are those who commit rape, sexual conduct with a minor, child molestation and continuous sexual abuse of a child.

Wilson was charged with aggravated assault on a child at a Bullhead City shopping center in 1997.

He received probation until he violated his probation and was sentenced to a year and a half in prison before being committed to the state hospital, records show.

Wilson faces a pretrial hearing on March 28 to decide whether to keep him in at the state hospital indefinitely.

The other man, who was never convicted but was ruled mentally incompetent, has been committed to the state hospital since November 1997.

He was arrested in June 1997 at a Kingman residence for indecent exposure of a child, molestation of a child and public sexual indecency, records show.

He has a court hearing today before Superior Court Judge James Chavez.

With the upcoming release of a sex offender after serving a term in prison, an inmate is tested by prison psychologists to determine whether he would commit another sexual offense.

A county's attorney office would then be notified of a possible repeat offender, Zack said.

The prosecutor will then petition for a hearing and a civil trial before a jury in the county's Superior Court to determine if a sex offender should be committed at the state hospital indefinitely, he said.