Washington state’s Court of Appeals has sided with Steven Powell, the father-in-law of missing West Valley City mom Susan Cox Powell, in his voyeurism case.
In a ruling handed down on Tuesday, the appeals court declared that Powell’s Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination was violated after he refused to disclose his sexual history as a part of court-ordered sex offender treatment.
“We hold that once Powell invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, punishing him for asserting his right to remain silent and compelling him to disclose his sexual history in the course of sexual deviancy treatment imposed as part of his criminal sentence without immunity from future prosecution is a Fifth Amendment violation,” the court wrote.
Powell was convicted in 2012 of a dozen counts of voyeurism and ordered to complete a “sexual deviancy treatment.” However, the ruling says, Powell refused to participate in a psycho-sexual evaluation and disclose his sexual history. Because of that, a court added an additional 40 days confinement to his sentence.
“Powell argued that, without a grant of immunity, his Fifth Amendment rights protected him from disclosing his likely incriminating sexual history. Powell acknowledged that he would be required to provide his sexual history if the State were to grant him immunity,” the court wrote.
In response to Powell, Washington state prosecutors refused to grant any immunity because “somebody could . . . admit to any level of horrible criminal activity, so we’re not in a position to extend immunity.”
Washington’s Appeals Court ruled that “it seems only fair to infer that his sexual [history] would, in fact, reveal past sex crimes,” but added that he faces a realistic threat of future prosecution, which then becomes a Fifth Amendment issue of self-incrimination.
“We agree because the State cannot compel Powell to incriminate himself absent protections against future prosecution based on his disclosures,” the court wrote.
Steven Powell is currently serving a prison sentence after a child pornography conviction was reinstated by a Washington court.
Susan Cox Powell vanished from her West Valley City home in 2009 and has never been found. Police searched Steven Powell’s Puyallup, Washington, home for clues to her disappearance and came upon evidence of voyeurism, including numerous photos and videos of people (including Susan).
Susan’s husband, Josh Powell, was considered a “person of interest” in his wife’s disappearance. He killed himself and the couple’s two children in a 2012 explosion and fire at a home he was renting in Washington.
Read the ruling here: