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Minnesota Sanction for Sex Offender Treatment Refusal Violates Fifth Amendment

The Minnesota Court of Appeals held that disciplining a prisoner and extending his prison sentence for refusal to participate in sex offender treatment was a violation of the Fifth Amendment. The appellate court concluded that State ex rel. Morrow v. LaFleur, 590 N.W. 2d 787, 792 (Minn. 1999) was effectively overruled by McKune v. Lile, 536 U.S. 24, 122 S.Ct. 2017 (2002). The decision was upheld on appeal by the Minnesota Supreme Court.

Frank Johnson was sentenced in February 2003 to 58 months in prison for burglary and a sex-related offense. The Prison Program Review Team ?Recommended that he complete a chemical dependency treatment program, TRIAD, and a sex-offender treatment program (SOTP)? before his release.

However, Johnson ?resisted entry into TRIAD because he did not feel he had a drug problem or needed inpatient treatment and because he was appealing his conviction.? The refusal was deemed a disciplinary violation and he was sanctioned with an additional 90 days in prison.
Similarly, Johnson ?was not accepted for admission? to SOTP ?because he expressed a lack of interest, indicating he was appealing his conviction and did not want to admit the offense.? That refusal resulted in a sanction to serve an additional 45 days.

Johnson filed a habeas corpus petition alleging that prison officials had violated his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination by disciplining him for his refusal to participate in the treatment programs. The district court denied the petition.

The Court of Appeals upheld the district court?s decision with respect to Johnson?s participation in TRIAD, because ?the district court?s finding that the TRIAD program did not require appellant to incriminate himself is amply supported by the record.? Accordingly, there was ?no factual basis for appellant?s Fifth Amendment argument as to the 90-day sanction for refusing to participate in the TRIAD program.?

The SOTP on the other hand, as conceded by the State, did require an offender to admit his offense and discuss its specifics. Citing State ex rel. Morrow v. LaFleur, 590 N.W.2d 787, 792 (Minn. 1999), the district court found the choice Johnson was presented with did not constitute compulsion. The Court of Appeals disagreed, concluding ?that Morrow?s holding does not reflect current Fifth Amendment law, as set forth in McKune v. Lile, 536 U.S. 24, 122 S.Ct. 2017 (2002).? Finding that ?McKune effectively overrules the holding in Morrow,? the appellate court concluded that the sanction imposed upon Johnson constituted ?compulsion? for purposes of the Fifth Amendment.

Thus, the Court of Appeals held that the 45-day sanction for refusal to participate in SOTP violated Johnson?s Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination, and remanded for recalculation of Johnson?s supervised release date. See: Johnson v. Fabian, 711 N.W.2d 540 (Minn.App. 2006).

On review, the Minnesota Supreme Court consolidated Johnson?s case with that of another prisoner, John William Henderson, who also had challenged a DOC-imposed sanction for refusal to participate in a mandatory SOTP. In Henderson?s case, the Court of Appeals had found that his Fifth Amendment rights were not violated because his direct appeal had been finalized at the time he was required to admit to his offenses during SOTP treatment.
See: State ex rel. Henderson v. Fabian, 715 N.W.2d 128 (Minn.App. 2006).

On June 28, 2007, the state Supreme Court held that the extension of prisoners? incarceration time due to their refusal to admit sexual offenses in SOTP programs did in fact rise to the level of compulsion in violation of the Fifth Amendment. The appellate court?s ruling in Johnson?s case was therefore affirmed.

The Court further held that because Henderson had testified at his trial that he did not commit the crime for which he was convicted, admission of the offense during SOTP treatment could expose him to perjury charges, thus invoking his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. The appellate ruling in Henderson?s case was reversed.

Two justices dissented, arguing that the precedent in Morrow should not have been overruled. See: Johnson v. Fabian, 735 N.W.2d 295 (Minn. 2007).

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Related legal cases

Johnson v. Fabian

Johnson v. Fabian

State ex rel. Henderson v. Fabian