Supreme Judicial Court (July 16, 2009)

The SJC ruled that, "absent extraordinary circumstances," judges must issue civil commitment decisions within 30 days of the end of trial.

The defendant earlier had been convicted of child rape and indecent assault and battery on a child, and the Commonwealth moved to have him civilly committed prior to his release from prison. A judge issued the SDP finding 13 months after a jury-waived trial. The defendant appealed, arguing insufficient evidence to support the SDP finding, and a violation of due process for the 13-month delay in rendering a decision. After review by the Appeals Court, the SJC granted leave for further review.

The SJC unanimously agreed that there was sufficient evidence to support the SDP adjudication. The Court was divided with respect to the due process claim, but unanimously disapproved of the lengthy delay that occurred in rendering a decision. The SJC issued a requirement that judges in G.L. c. 123A, § 14 jury-waived trials must render a decision within 30 days of the end of trial, "absent extraordinary circumstances."

Parenthetically, with respect to the due process claim, five justices found that there was no violation (three finding no prejudice and two finding prejudice that did not rise to the level of a constitutional violation), and two justices found that, while the delay was prejudicial and a violation of due process, the case does not require dismissal or a new trial.