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Name: In re Wright
Case #: D044976
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 04/19/2005
Subsequent History: Rev. den. 7/13/05

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.