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Name: People v. Johnson
Case #: A140310
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 1 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 03/13/2015

Defendant committed as sexually violent predator (SVP) may not vacate his commitment based on the fact the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) fails to allude to the psychiatric diagnosis upon which his commitment was based. On several occasions since 1983, Johnson committed violent sexual assaults against women. As he neared completion of a prison term for a rape conviction, the prosecution petitioned to have Johnson committed as an SVP. The jury found Johnson to be an SVP and he received an indefinite commitment. In several writ petitions he claimed newly discovered evidence as well as revisions to the DSM undermined the state’s evidence, rendering it “false evidence” (Pen. Code, § 1473). Held: Writ denied. A habeas petition may be based on a claim that false evidence which was substantially material/probative on the issue of guilt was presented against a person. The Legislature recently amended section 1473 to expand the definition of “false evidence” to include expert opinions which have been repudiated by the expert who provided it or which were undermined by later scientific research or technological advances. Johnson claimed that the diagnosis on which his commitment was based—paraphilic coercive disorder—can no longer be considered a valid mental disorder, thus invalidating his commitment. The fact that the latest DSM does not allude to paraphilic coercive disorder does not undermine the opinions of the state’s expert witnesses or render their opinions false evidence. “The federal constitution does not require an SVP’s commitment to be based on a disorder that is uniformly recognized by the mental health community.” Nor does the SVP Act require that an SVP’s mental diagnosis appear in DSM. The validity of Johnson’s diagnosis was fully litigated at his trial. He did not object to introduction of the state’s experts and cross-examined them. Even if the newest DSM reflects skepticism in the psychiatric community about paraphilic coercive disorder, Johnson’s commitment based on this diagnosis does not violate due process, or undermine the basis of his commitment.