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svpa compendium

 

Year 2005
California Court of Appeal

People v. Torres (C048309 / 11/8/05)
133 Cal.App.4th 1359 (rev. granted 2/8/06: S139595)
[1.]The requirements of Anders v. California (1967) 386 U.S. 738 and People v. Wende (1979) 25 Cal.3d 436 do not apply to appeals from civil commitments of sexually violent predators. Anders and Wende apply only to criminal prosecutions, and persons committed as sexually violent predators are not similarly situated to criminal defendants. Fundamental fairness does not compel application of Anders and Wende to these proceedings, and the appeal is accordingly dismissed due to appellant's failure to identify any claims of reversible error.

 

People v. Rowell (C045794 / 10/13/05)
133 Cal.App.4th 447
[1.] Appellant initially demanded a jury trial on an SVP recommitment, but then his counsel represented to the court that he wanted a court trial. The trial court accepted the representation and proceeded with a court trial without obtaining a personal waiver of jury trial. Following the court trial, appellant was recommitted as an SVP. On appeal, he contended that the trial court erred in accepting counsel's representation. The appellate court rejected the argument, finding that the court was not required to confirm the representation with a personal waiver from appellant. An SVP proceeding is a civil proceeding with a statutory right, not a constitutional right to jury trial. Under the statute, a jury trial is waived by the failure to request one. Counsel's representation that a jury is waived was sufficient.

 

People v. Evans (A105272 / 8/19/05)
132 Cal.App.4th 950
[3.B.] Evans moved to dismiss a petition alleging that he was a sexually violent predator (SVP) because it had not been timely prosecuted under Code of Civil Procedure section 583.310 et seq. The trial court denied his motion and the jury found him to be an SVP. The appellate court again rejected the argument regarding timely prosecution, finding that section 583.310 does not apply to special proceedings such as SVP commitments. Even if it did apply to SVP proceedings, application of mandatory dismissal statutes would be inconsistent with the character of SVP proceedings. And even if discretion had been exercised under that section, the court did not abuse its discretion because some of the continuances were a product of changes of attorneys and court congestion.

 

People v. Whitney (F045372 / 6/2/05)
129 Cal.App.4th 1287
[3.C.3.c.] The defendant's convictions in Texas for indecency with children were sexually violent offenses within the meaning of the Sexually Violent Predator Act. The alleged SVP priors were for violations of Texas Penal Code section 21.11(a)(1), which applies to improper sexual contact with a child under the age of 17. Defendant argued that the prior conviction did not qualify under the SVP act because the corresponding California statute, section 288(a), applies only to improper contact with children under the age of 14. The court of appeal rejected the argument that a trial court is not permitted to go beyond the elements of a foreign conviction in determining whether that conviction qualifies under the SVP act. The record here was clear that the victims in the Texas case were nine years old, and the court of appeal held that the trial court could properly look to mental health evaluations to see whether the Texas crimes fit the criteria under California law. The court further rejected the argument that Crawford v. Washington (2004) 541 U.S. 36 had superseded or undermined the holding in People v. Otto (2001) 26 Cal.4th 200. In Otto, the California Supreme Court held that provisions of the SVP act regarding the use of hearsay evidence to establish a prior conviction did not implicate due process or confrontation rights. Assuming without deciding that Crawford applies to a civil SVP proceeding, the court of appeal nonetheless held that the Sixth Amendment was not implicated where the hearsay that was admitted was limited to defendant's own admissions, which he made no attempt to counter at the hearing.

 

People v. Munoz (D042016 / 5/13/05)
129 Cal.App.4th 421
[4.C.] At appellant's trial pursuant to Welfare and Institutions Code section 6600 et seq., the trial court erred when it admitted evidence concerning appellant's two prior SVP commitments. The requirement of a new determination of SVP status every two years arises from the requirement that the commitment must be based on a currently diagnosed mental disorder. While a prior commitment has some relevance in determining whether a defendant has a current disorder, the relevance is limited and great care must be taken in admitting evidence concerning the prior commitment. Petitioner is required to prove that the defendant is an SVP, not that he is still an SVP. Each recommitment requires independent proof that a defendant has a currently diagnosed mental disorder making him a danger. It may impossible to avoid the jury learning of the prior commitment, as it may be necessary to discuss treatment and behavior while in the state hospital. But it is necessary that nothing be done which suggests that the jury's task is to compare the present mental status with the earlier finding that the defendant is an SVP or effectively lessen the state's burden.

 

People v. Angulo (E034875 / 5/11/05)
129 Cal.App.4th 1349 (mod. 6/10/05)
[1.A.; 5.A.] Appellant was committed to a secured facility after a jury found him to be a sexually violent predator (SVP). Before trial, he requested that the court appoint one or more mental health care professionals to assist in his defense, and moved that any psych evaluations performed be kept confidential. The court appointed an expert, but denied the request for confidentiality. On appeal, appellant contended that the refusal to appoint psychologists whose reports would be kept confidential denied his right to assistance of counsel, to present a defense, and to a fair trial. He also contended that the evaluations were protected from disclosure by the psychotherapist-patient privilege, the lawyer-client privilege, the work product doctrine, and the privilege against self-incrimination. The appellate court rejected his arguments. Evaluations of an alleged SVP by appointed experts are discoverable. Further, the psychotherapist-patient privilege which applies to a court-appointed expert in a criminal proceeding does not apply in a SVPA proceeding, which is civil. Likewise, since this was a civil proceeding Crawford v. Washington does not apply. Therefore, the admission of police reports was not error. Further, Crawford is not violated if the defendant had an opportunity to cross-examine the declarant, which appellant had here.

 

People v. Burns (A106643 / 4/21/05)
128 Cal.App.4th 794
[1.] A defendant facing commitment as a sexually violent predator is not entitled to the presence of counsel at psychological interviews. The court based its conclusion on the fact that SVP proceedings are not criminal actions and thus do not afford the full range of constitutional protections afforded to criminal defendants. In the SVP context, providing a defendant with counsel at a psychiatric evaluation would undermine the goal of reliably identifying persons whose mental conditions make them likely to commit further acts of sexual violence.

 

In re Wright (D044976 / 4/19/05)
128 Cal.App.4th 663 (rev. den. 7/13/05)
[5.B.] A jury concluded that appellant was a sexually violent predator (SVP) and he was committed to a state mental institution for two years. Since the appointed evaluators did not agree on whether Wright was an SVP, the Director was required pursuant to Welfare and Institutions Code section 6601, subd.(e), to arrange an examination by two "independent professionals" which is defined as including "licensed psychologists who have a doctoral degree in psychology." Following the rejection of his appeal, appellant discovered that one of the examining doctors lacked the requisite qualifications, because his Ph.D. was in education, not psychology. In this habeas petition, appellant addressed the issue of the meaning of the requirement of having a "doctoral degree in psychology" and whether the procedural posture of the case rendered the matter moot or any error harmless. The appellate court concluded that any defect in the evaluations was harmless. Two other doctors with the requisite qualifications also testified at trial and both recommended commitment. There is not a reasonable probability that a different result would have occurred in the absence of the claimed error. Nor was it ineffective assistance of counsel that appellant's attorney did not discover the error in the doctor's qualifications. The doctor's resume noted that he had a doctorate in psychology, and it appears that he attempted to conceal the precise nature of his degree.

 

People v. Sumahit (C043152 / 4/8/05)
128 Cal.App.4th 374 (rev. den. 7/13/05)
[3.C.1.] Two doctors for the State testified that defendant suffered from pedophilia and that he was likely to commit sexual predatory acts if released. Defendant declined to be interviewed by either doctor. The doctors applied the "Static-99" test for predicting whether a person was likely to repeat his sexual offenses and considered other factors as well. In affirming, the court held that defendant was precluded from challenging the sufficiency of the evidence that he currently lacked the ability to control his behavior because he refused to be interviewed by the State's experts with respect to the current status of the mental abnormality which formed the basis of his commitment. Defendant's refusal to accept treatment, coupled with a valid diagnosis that he suffered from a sexual disorder affecting his volitional capacity, were sufficient to sustain the trial court's finding that he would, if released to the community, represent a substantial danger of committing similar new crimes. Defendant's refusal to be treated foreclosed him from claiming that application of the SVPA violated the Ex Post Facto Clause on the ground that it was primarily punitive in nature.

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