SAN JOSE -- A convicted sex offender who has been locked up for more than 30 years for viciously attacking young men will be freed from prison unless a Santa Clara County jury deems him a sexually violent predator.
The jury began deliberating Thursday afternoon after a two-week hearing that included searing details about Duane Stillwell's assaults.
Stillwell, now 54, was supposed to serve 59 years in prison for a series of sex crimes, including a conviction he picked up while behind bars. For nearly four months, he forcibly sodomized his cell mate on a daily basis, beat him, threatened to blind him with a pencil, choked him to unconsciousness and urinated on him.
But Stillwell was to be paroled after 33 years under the prison credit system for work and good behavior, until the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office sought to have him locked up in a state hospital indefinitely on the grounds that he is a sexually violent predator (SVP).
"He's uniquely dangerous in that he is both sexually preoccupied and a psychopath," prosecutor Marisa McKeown told the jury of three men and nine women Thursday during her closing argument. "The SVP law was written for people like him."
Two experts hired by the California Department of State Hospitals both found that Stillwell has "paraphilia," a condition characterized by abnormal sexual desires, typically involving extreme or dangerous activities. One also found elements of sexual sadism.
Stillwell's lawyer, Ruben Espinosa, argued Thursday his client has not attacked anyone else since 1982, when the cell mate reported being brutally assaulted. However, McKeown said he was confined to a single-bed cell because prison authorities considered him "predatory."
Espinosa also noted that one expert hired by the defense concluded that, although Stillwell has anti-social traits, he does not have "paraphilia." Another defense expert who is prominent in the field warned against diagnosing all rapists as sadists.
"No one disputes they were horrible crimes," said Espinosa, referring to Stillwell's actions. "But rape, as horrific as it is, is not a mental disorder. Mr. Stillwell has served his time."
Contact Tracey Kaplan at 408-278-3482. Follow her at Twitter.com/tkaplanreport.