The trial of a man alleged to be a sexually violent predator has taken over the Wahkiakum County courthouse.
Darrell Lamar Kent has served his sentence on sex crime charges, and the State of Washington is asking the Superior Court to sign a civil commitment placing Kent in continued custody until he might be considered safe to return to society.
Cowlitz County Judge Marilyn Haan is presiding over the trial, and for security reasons, has ordered the closure of all but one of the entrances to the courthouse. People coming to the courthouse must pass through a checkpoint for inspection.
Wahkiakum County Clerk Kay Holland's office had called 110 potential jurors for the case, which is expected to last 11-15 days. Lawyers for Kent and the state began examining jurors Monday. One of the potential jurors was ill and was dismissed, and by Tuesday noon, the counsels had reduced the pool to 57 persons.
Jurors were asked to park cars at Wahkiakum High School; a sheriff's office bus and Wahkiakum on the Move shuttled them downtown.
This is apparently the largest jury pool called for a case in Wahkiakum County. Retired Clerk Barbara Blix said the largest pool she had ever called totalled 80 jurors.
Wahkiakum County commissioners cancelled their regular Tuesday meeting for the week, freeing their meeting room to hold jurors. One commissioner had already planned to miss the meeting to attend an insurance pool meeting, and the others felt their business could wait until next Tuesday.
The state is asking the court to issue the civil commitment of Kent as a sexually violent predator.
Kent was convicted in Wahkiakum Superior Court in 1995 of Rape of a Child in the Second Degree and Child Molestation in the Second Degree. In 2005, he entered an Alford Plea to a charge of Child Molestation in the Second Degree. In an Alford Plea, the defendant admits no guilt but acknowledges that the state likely has evidence that would lead to a conviction in a trial.
The state has conducted a psychological evaluation of Kent. The evaluation, according to the court file, concluded "that the respondent suffers from a mental abnormality as that term is defined in the Revised Code of Washington, . . . specifically, pedophilia." The report also said the respondent suffers from an antisocial personality disorder.
The state claims that the mental abnormality and personality disorder cause the defendant to have difficulty controlling sexually violent behavior and make him likely to engage in predatory acts unless confined in a secure facility.