Supreme Court Summaries

Opinions filed September 22, 2011


People v. Masterson, 2011 IL 110072

Appellate citation: No. 1-05-3945 (unpublished order under Supreme Court Rule 23).


      CHIEF JUSTICE KILBRIDE delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.

      Justices Freeman, Thomas, Garman, Karmeier, Burke, and Theis concurred in the judgment and opinion.


      This offender has a confessed history of pedophilic behavior dating back to 1983, including a series of events which were under surveillance by Chicago police in 1997. In 1998, while criminal charges were pending against him, the State initiated proceedings to have him involuntarily committed as sexually dangerous under the statute providing therefor. This request was granted by the circuit court of Cook County and the appellate court affirmed.

      Masterson complained that he had not been allowed to defend the sexually-dangerous-person claim by retaining his own expert at public expense. He argued that this option is available to those sought to be committed as sexually violent, and that, therefore, equal protection was denied to him. He pointed to the fact that the statutory definition of “mental disorder” as to the sexually dangerous has been judicially held to be ambiguous and that the statutory definition as to the sexually violent must be read into it.

      In this decision, the supreme court explained that there is more to these two statutes than the definition of “mental disorder.” It found that the equal protection claim must fail because those deemed sexually dangerous and those deemed sexually violent are not similarly situated.

      The Sexually Dangerous Persons Act is an older law which dates back to 1938. It permits the State to seek an involuntary and indefinite commitment in lieu of criminal prosecution when a person believed to be sexually dangerous is charged with a criminal offense. The Sexually Violent Persons Act took effect 60 years later, in 1998. It applies only to sexually violent individuals who are subject to release or discharge from State custody and who have been convicted (or adjudicated delinquent or found not guilty by reason of insanity) of certain enumerated offenses. Despite Masterson’s extensive criminal history, he has not been involved with the type of violent sex crime which would justify his commitment as sexually violent.

      The supreme court held in this decision that individuals subject to these two statutes are not similarly situated. Therefore, the equal protection claim fails. There is no need to apply the rational basis test. The results below were affirmed.