Court Loss for Sister of Girl Killed After Rape

     (CN) – California’s failure to commit a convicted rapist who killed a young teen upon his parole does not constitute negligence, the state Supreme Court ruled.
     Because the California Department of Mental Health did not request a petition for civil commitment under the Sexually Violent Predators Act, Gilton Pitre left prison in 2007 after serving 11 years for raping his female roommate.
     Four days later, Pitre raped and killed 15-year-old Alyssa Gomez. He was convicted in 2010 and sentenced to 75 years to life in prison, followed by two other consecutive sentences.
     Gomez’s sister, Elaina Novoa, sued the California Department of Mental Health and two of its acting directors, claiming negligence and breach of mandatory duty.
     After the Los Angeles Superior Court denied the state immunity, a three-judge appeals court reversed as to the negligence claims only in 2013, saying Novoa could not show that any breach of duty by the state proximately caused her sister’s death.
     The California Supreme Court affirmed Monday, though Novoa argued that Pitre’s evaluation failed to conform to a state law that subjects a paroled inmate to examination by “two practicing psychiatrists or psychologists,” or one of each.
     Pitre’s commitment assessment relied on an evaluation by only one professional, but the Supreme Court noted “that if the review conducted by the single DMH evaluator had been performed by (the Department of Corrections) at the previous stage of the review process, Pitre would have been released without any referral to DMH, and no cause of action would lie.”
     Novoa’s case hinges on “a long series of determinations that would have been required after DMH’s breach in order for the injury to have been prevented,” according to the lead opinion by Justice Carol Corrigan.
     The sister can still seek a writ of mandate requiring the defendants to comply with their duties under the SVPA, according to the ruling.
     In a concurring opinion joined by two colleagues, Justice Kathryn Werdegar took issue with the “majority’s conclusion that policy considerations negate proximate cause as a matter of law.”
     “Neither the majority opinion nor the lower court decisions on which it relies put forward a logical ground for concluding the proof of causation in circumstances like those presented here would violate an established public policy,” Werdegar wrote.

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