Bill restricting forensic patient outings gains final passage, on its way to governor

A measure that would restrict outings for forensic patients in state custody has cleared its final hurdle and is on its way to the governor. The House of Representatives approved the bill today, 96-0.

Rep. Matt Shea, R-Spokane Valley, says he introduced House Bill 2717 to ensure that dangerous mentally ill patients under state supervision would not be given the ability to participate in future outings that could jeopardize the public’s safety.

Last September, criminally insane killer Phillip Paul was taken on an Eastern Washington Hospital field trip during family day at the Spokane County Fair. He walked away and it took three days before authorities were able to locate and capture him 250 miles away.

“I want to make sure our families are never put at risk again as they were when the opportunity was given for Phillip Paul to escape from custody,” said Shea.

In 1987, Paul admitted strangling and cutting the throat of Sunnyside, Washington community activist Ruth Motley. Her body was found buried in her flower garden. Paul was later found not guilty by reason of insanity.

“This bill is extremely important to the citizens of Spokane County as well as the 4th Legislative District because it would effectively ban forensic patient outings such as the incident at the fairgrounds. It paralyzed our local community when Phillip Paul walked away and no one knew his whereabouts. It was devastating to local businesses. He was within feet of many children at the fair, and that a was frightening experience to our community,” said Shea.

Under the bill, a person committed to a state facility for the purpose of determining competency, restoring competency, or as the result of a finding of not guilty by reason of insanity, would not be allowed to leave that facility except for:

  • necessary medical or legal proceedings not available in the facility where he or she is confined;
  • visits to the bedside of a member of an immediate family member who is seriously ill;
  • attendance at the funeral of an immediate family member; or
  • authorized by the court.

Prior to any authorized release, the bill requires the Department of Social and Health Services to give notification to any county or city law enforcement agency having jurisdiction in the location of the patient’s destination.

“Public safety wins out in this bill. I know the governor recognizes how important this is, and I’m optimistic she will sign it into law.” concluded Shea.

# # #

CONTACT: John Sattgast, Senior Information Officer: (360) 786-7257


Washington State House Republican Communications