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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Hearing: Will Rader get media?

By Tim Potter
The Wichita Eagle

Prosecutors are expected to argue at a Wednesday hearing that BTK serial killer Dennis Rader should be denied materials he could use in prison to feed his sexual fantasies.

The 3 p.m. court hearing will be held at El Dorado Correctional Facility, where Rader is being evaluated to determine where he will serve 10 consecutive life sentences — one for each of his 10 victims from 1974 to 1991.

Sedgwick County District Judge Greg Waller is expected to hear arguments from prosecutors and defense lawyers, then make a recommendation about the conditions of Rader's imprisonment.

The decision will lie with the Kansas Department of Corrections. Still, a judge's recommendations often carry weight.

The hearing also will deal with Rader's restitution, court costs and the disposition of evidence. But the question of what materials Rader can have access to is likely to dominate the discussion.

At his August sentencing, Sedgwick County prosecutors presented evidence showing that Rader created and kept thousands of drawings, photographs and advertising cut-outs of adults and children. In many cases he depicted the people as crime victims or fantasized that they were his prey. He had drawn bindings across some images of children in advertisements.

He collected the images, and carefully stored them, to feed his sexual fantasy about bondage, which fueled his killings. The fantasy is why he called himself BTK — for bind, torture, kill.

Wednesday's hearing at the high-security prison will not be open to the public and will have limited media access.

Rader's defense lawyers are likely to contend that restrictions on Rader's writing and reading materials are unnecessary.

Chief Public Defender Steve Osburn has signaled in court before that he might raise First Amendment concerns — that Rader has a right to communicate and express himself.

Prosecutors are expected to argue that as long as Rader can feed his violent sexual fantasies, he will pose a danger to corrections officers and other inmates.

At the August sentencing, District Attorney Nola Foulston asked Waller to recommend that Rader:

  • "Be prohibited from possessing, receiving or creating any visual images of human beings or animals."
  • Not be allowed to "possess, receive or create any typed or handwritten or computer-generated documents that describe sexual or murderous fantasies or intent."
  • "Not be able to possess or receive or create inanimate objects that can be used to resemble human or animal forms."
  • "Not be permitted to view or listen (to) or read any media press story or report regarding the murders" he committed.

Prison inmates do lose some First Amendment rights, Wichita defense lawyer Dan Monnat said. For example, inmates' mail can be inspected by prison employees, and inmates can't watch television unless they earn the privilege with good behavior.

Further, state law prohibits inmates from having obscene writing, pictures, items or devices. What is obscene is determined by an "average person applying contemporary community standards," the law says.

But Monnat maintained that the prosecution's proposed restrictions "are far too broad and vague to be constitutionally permissible."

Foulston has argued that Rader can take anything and create pornographic fantasies from it.

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