MIAMI-DADE COURTS

Judge ignores jury finding, sends Miami serial rapist to civil confinement

 

dovalle@MiamiHerald.com

Miami serial rapist Juan Vega should be committed indefinitely to a locked-down treatment center, a judge ruled Friday.

Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Migna Sanchez-Llorens’ ruling was unusual because she disregarded a jury’s decision Thursday night that Vega should not be committed under Florida’s Jimmy Ryce law.

Convicted in 1986 of a slew of sexual attacks and kidnappings, Vega finished his prison sentence in March 2011 and had been awaiting a civil trial since.

The 1998 Jimmy Ryce act allowed for the indefinite detention of sexual predators deemed too dangerous to be allowed back to society after serving their prison term. Those committed under the law normally stay at the Florida Civil Commitment Center in Arcadia, where they are evaluated annually to see if they can be released.

The law was named after 9-year-old Jimmy Ryce, who was kidnapped, raped and killed in South Miami-Dade in 1995. His killer is on Death Row.

Vega was arrested in 1985 after a Miami-Dade detective, while interviewing a victim at the crime scene, spotted the man’s red truck drive by. Investigators linked him to a series of other kidnapping and rapes.

Miami-Dade prosecutors argued that Vega, who had escaped prison custody once and tried twice more, would be a threat even if he was released. Vega’s defense attorneys said there was no proof Vega would re-offend if released.

After a two-week civil trial, a jury split, 3-3, on whether to order Vega into civil custody.

Under state law, a split jury means an offender cannot be committed against his will.

But Sanchez-Llorens, citing the potential danger to the community, threw out the jury’s decision and ordered Vega into civil custody.

Defense attorney Andrew Rier, in court Friday, said the judge’s ruling was “unprecedented” and vowed to appeal.

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