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Name: People v. Reynolds
Case #: E036242
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 2
Opinion Date: 05/05/2006
Subsequent History: 8/23/06: Rev. denied & ordered not published

Pre-1983 no contest pleas and corresponding convictions may be used in proceedings under the Sexually Violent Predators Act. The SVPA proceedings at issue were based on qualifying prior convictions from 1980 and 1993. The defendant unsuccessfully moved to dismiss the People’s original commitment petition, contending that he had only one, not two, prior qualifying convictions for purposes of the SVPA. The appellate court affirmed the denial of the motion to dismiss, noting that the California Supreme Court had rejected the same argument in People v. Yartz (2005) 37 Cal.4th 529, and that the trial court was not required to follow the appellate court decision in Yartz even though it had become final by the time of the SVPA proceeding in this case. The defendant further argued that he was prejudiced and denied his rights to due process and to confront witnesses by the erroneous admission of testimonial hearsay statements in police and probation reports, through the testimony of the People’s expert psychologists and other witnesses. The appellate court rejected the argument, holding that People v. Otto (2001) 26 Cal.4th 200 is still good law in spite of Crawford v. Washington (2004) 541 U.S. 36, and that under Otto, defendants in SVPA cases have only a due process right to cross-examine witnesses, not a Sixth Amendment right. The court did find that some of the testimony should have been excluded, but found the error harmless. Finally, the defendant argued that the trial court prejudicially erred in allowing one of the prosecution’s expert witnesses to express opinions on “legal issues,” including whether defendant had committed sexually violent predatory acts on two or more victims and was likely to reoffend. The Court of Appeal agreed that the court had abused its discretion in admitting the evidence, but found this error harmless as well.