Perverted Justice?

Or is a new law that puts sexual predators in long-term psychiatric lock-up really -- and finally -- justice for perverts?

"Crazy Cain," as he was latter dubbed in prison, committed his first rape in 1977, mere days before Felix committed his first. Cain followed a Korean immigrant from a bus stop to her home in Redwood City. He forced his way in and raped her. He went to prison the following year, but, for some reason, he was paroled in June of 1980. Like Felix, Cain could not stop.

The same month he was paroled, Cain forced his way into the house of a recent Vietnamese immigrant, and raped and forced oral sex on her. She was a virgin. Cain was convicted of that crime also, and was imprisoned for 29 years.

Althor Cain began his criminal career as a Peeping Tom and exhibitionist. His first recorded sex crime took place in 1965 in Lompoc. Between 1965 and 1977 he was arrested, and did time for, a string of sex crimes, including, but not limited to, breaking into a little girl's room to steal her underwear. He also proved himself to be violent, by savagely beating an elderly man with a club in 1976.

Unlike Felix, Cain showed no remorse. Asked by Probation Officer William Lloyd for a statement, Cain simply said, "My needs weren't getting met."

Before his trial, police searched Cain's house and found a stack of approximately 30 sheets of paper containing detailed notes, outlining his research and surveillance on his intended victims.

Each of Cain's targets was Asian. He knew their names and ages. In some cases, he knew how long they had been in this country. He even knew the names and ages of his intended victims' children. He knew when they would be home alone. He knew their phone numbers. He would even bump into them on the street, and start a conversation in order to obtain clues as to their temperament.

"Separated from husband. Likes soft voice sex," one note reads.
"Has little boy. When I ask her if she would like little girl, she laughs. Husband works far away in San Osay [sic]. She doesn't work -- stay home all day," another reads.

Some of his notes contain thoughts and instructions to himself. And some are downright chilling. On one, he rehearses what he will say to his prey after he has completed raping her.

"Tell her: Keep it in your heart. It's your secret. You tell no one. Keep it in your heart."

Cain's commitment hearing last year was a slam-dunk. Testimony revealed that in prison, he would disrobe and masturbate whenever a female staff member walked by.

When it came to his courtroom demeanor, Cain was his own worst enemy. He would fix his eyes in a crazed glare on every female in the room, jurors included. His glare was comparable to Charlie Manson's. The jury very rapidly came to a unanimous conclusion: Atascadero.

It's hard to compare Cain and Felix. Except for the nature of some of their crimes, they are very different people. But the Sexually Violent Predator Act can obscure some of the differences between the Cains and the Felixes of this world. The law has three main qualifying features: For the act to be triggered, a convict must have committed crimes involving two or more victims. The convict must have a diagnosable mental disorder that relates to his offense. And the state's experts have to determine, scientifically, that the offender is more likely than not to commit new sex crimes.

The first two parts are fairly cut and dried. Either the convict has two or more victims, or he (so far, they have all been male) does not. And the psychiatric bible commonly known as the DSM defines pedophilia (sexual deviance involving non-consenting children younger than 14) and paraphilia (sexual deviance involving non-consenting adults) very simply: If a fantasy set or a behavioral set is deviant and lasts for more than six months, you have the disorder. So anyone who rapes or molests two victims at least six months apart is, by definition, a pedophile or a paraphiliac.

State experts are quick to reach the third criterion: predicting the future. Making such predictions might seem like a hard thing to do. But in the legal context, it has been made easy by the Canadian research team of R. Karl Hanson and Monique Bussiere.

Beginning in 1995, these researchers conducted what's called a meta-analysis of the predictors of re-offense for pedophiles and serial rapists. Working for the Solicitor General's Office of Canada -- the country's equivalent to our U.S. Department of Justice -- the two scientists combined the results of 61 different studies from six different countries, statistically isolating factors that, they believe, can predict the future criminal behavior of sex offenders, and in particular, the likelihood that such offenders will commit new sex crimes.

In all the sexual predator cases to come before San Francisco juries, the Hanson/Bussiere study has been cited by prosecutors and their experts. But it is not at all clear if this meta-study can be legitimately or accurately applied to individual offenders.

In the first cases tried under the sexual predator law, state experts emphasized their individual clinical judgments when making their determinations about who was likely to re-offend. But the prosecutors who put these experts forward soon learned that clinical judgment can easily be picked apart by savvy defense attorneys.

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