Acting as his own attorney, Coe, better known as the "South Hill Rapist," filed the lawsuit earlier this month in U.S. District Court. In it, he contends he doesn't belong at the Special Commitment Center, a McNeil Island facility housing sex criminals who've completed their prison terms but are deemed likely to attack again due to mental illness.
Coe, a radio announcer turned serial rapist, was arrested in 1981 and ultimately convicted in three rapes in the Spokane area. He is widely believed to have attacked as many as 32 other women during the late 1970s through the early 1980s, when multiple rapes were committed against women walking alone at night.
Having served a 25-year sentence, Coe was scheduled for release when the state moved to commit him as a sexually violent predator. A jury agreed in 2008 and ordered Coe detained indefinitely.
Under Washington law, county prosecutors or the state Attorney General's Office may file civil lawsuits asking that convicted sex offenders be confined indefinitely at a Department of Social and Health Services facility, the Special Commitment Center.
To prevail, prosecutors must show that an offender is likely to sexually assault again, and that the offender has a mental abnormality making him so. If a jury or judge agrees with prosecutors, an offender can be sent to the McNeil Island center.
The Special Commitment Center is home to about 300 men being held indefinitely. While several offenders have "graduated" from the program and more than a dozen others are living off the island, most remain at the facility. They make up about 1 percent of the sex offenders convicted in Washington courts.
Coe appealed the 2008 detention order. In 2012, the state Supreme Court found against him and upheld the jury verdict.
Now, Coe contends he should have been allowed during the 2008 trial to again interview the women he raped. The rapist was silent on what purpose such testimony would have served, though he contended the court's failure to allow him to do so violated his rights.
"This case is a fiasco of justice," Coe said in the lawsuit. "And when justice has not been occasioned in the trial court - or in the state review courts - the unjustice must be remedied upon federal review."
Coe also contended that he does not have a "mental abnormality or personality disorder," as the jury found, and that a recent revision to a widely circulated psychiatric guide removed rape from the list of behaviors of caused by mental illnesses. He faulted his attorney for not asking the court to define "personality disorder" for the jury.
The state has not yet responded to Coe's lawsuit. He remains confined at the McNeil Island center.