(CN) - A woman whose sister was raped and murdered by a recent parolee cannot hold California liable for its failure to commit the man, a state appeals court ruled.
Gilton Pitre had been sent to prison in 1996 after he raped and threatened to kill his female roommate in 1996. The roommate had saved her life by feigning romantic interest in Pitre.
Four days after a California state prison released Pitre on parole in 2007, however, he raped and murdered 15-year-old Alyssa Gomez. The victim's sister, Elaina Novoa, filed a complaint against the Department of Mental Health, its director and former director.
She claimed the defendants should have civilly committed Pitre as a sexually violent predator and that, if Pitre "had not been unlawfully released, Alyssa would be alive today."
The defendants filed a demurrer to the complaint, but a Los Angeles judge overruled it.
A three-judge panel of the Second Appellate District reversed in part Wednesday.
Though Novoa sufficiently alleges that the defendants breached their mandatory requirement to fully evaluate a suspected sexually violent predator, the court found no evidence that this alleged breach proximately caused Novoa's injuries.
"Because the one psychologist who did evaluate Pitre found he was not a sexually violent offender, a negative evalation by a second psychologist or psychoiatrist would have triggered the tie-breaking mechanism," Justice Patti Kitching wrote for the court.
"If the two independent mental health professionals assigned to re-examine the case recommended that the district attorney pursue a civil commitment action, the district attorney was under no obligation to pursue such an action," she added.
As a citizen of California, however, Novoa does have standing to seek a writ that compels the defendants to comply with certain mandatory duties required by the Sexually Violent Predators Act, the court found.