To the people who prosecuted Kevin Coe before, it’s justice reaffirmed.
To an outspoken Spokane attorney and to a fellow sex offender, it’s justice run amok.
And to the detective who originally arrested Coe, it’s a better deal than the rapist deserves.
Reactions were varied Thursday to a Spokane County Superior Court jury’s decision that Coe is a “sexually violent predator” who should be indefinitely committed to a mental facility.
“I think they did the right thing,” former Spokane County Prosecutor Don Brockett, who handled Coe’s first criminal trial in 1981, said of the jury’s verdict.
Brockett praised the jurors for their diligence, state attorneys for “doing a great job of presenting the case” and, especially, rape victims for having “the courage to come back into court and testify.”
Steve Matthews, a former deputy prosecutor who replaced Brockett for the second criminal trial in 1985 – because Brockett had been the target of a murder-for-hire plot by Coe’s mother, Ruth – said Coe is his own worst enemy.
“He’s never done anything to accept any responsibility, or mitigate his conduct,” Matthews said. “I think that makes him scary.”
But nobody can predict what Coe might do in the future, particularly a jury of lay people, said local lawyer Steve Eugster, a critic of the civil commitment process.
“How many people on that jury have the training, authority by law to make a medical diagnosis? That’s what they’re doing,” Eugster said of the jury’s finding that Coe suffers from a mental abnormality.
“That’s like me going to a plumber to get a diagnosis whether I have a heart condition,” he said.
As for the jury’s decision that Coe is likely to re-offend if released, Eugster said: “They can’t decide that. They’re not God.”
Richard Scott, a convicted child rapist who’s confined at the state’s Special Commitment Center on McNeil Island – where Coe had been housed since his release from prison, and where he will return – predicted Coe would win his planned appeal.
Scott, who lived in the same unit as Coe and talked to him frequently, said jurors should not have heard about old cases in which Coe wasn’t charged, and the trial never should have been held in Spokane County.
“The appeals court is going to say, ‘Yes, there was more than enough evidence of bias in that community,’ ” he said.
Still, even if you prevail on appeal, Scott said, “You don’t win your release, you just win a new trial.”
The bottom line, he said, is that Coe has already served his full sentence for his single surviving conviction.
“That’s how it should work, rather than doing your time and then doing another 20 years here,” Scott said. He added: “This is not a treatment center. This is just another prison.”
But it’s cushier than Coe is entitled to, says Roy Allen, who became lead detective in the “South Hill rapist” investigation in January 1981, after the attacks had terrorized the city for two years.
Allen would rather see Coe behind bars, where he likely would be had his original sentence of life plus 75 years on four rape convictions not been whittled down by appeals.
“They’re putting him in a nice little rest home for the rest of his life,” Allen said. “People his age pay good money for living in luxury like that.”
On the other hand, he said, “(Coe’s) victims have got to live with their scars for the rest of their lives.
“He brutally beat these women. He rammed his hand so far down their throats that they couldn’t talk for a couple of days.
“That came to a halt, thank God, before he killed somebody.”