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Name: People v. Roa
Case #: B264885
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 2
Opinion Date: 05/02/2017
Summary

Reversal of commitment as a sexually violent predator (SVP) required under People v. Sanchez (2016) 63 Cal.4th 665 where court allowed experts to relate inadmissible case-specific hearsay contained in district attorney investigation reports. A jury found that Roa was an SVP and he was committed to the state hospital for an indeterminate term. To establish Roa had the requisite mental disorder, prosecution experts testified that they diagnosed Roa with a number of disorders, including sexual sadism and paraphilic disorder. The experts were permitted, over Roa’s hearsay and due process objections, to testify that their diagnoses were based, in part, on two district attorney investigator reports prepared in 1999 (the reports themselves were excluded as inadmissible hearsay). One report described a 1999 interview with Roa’s wife wherein she described Roa sexually humiliating and abusing her. A second report described two incidents from 1967 and 1974 where Roa allegedly attempted to rape young girls. Roa appealed, arguing, inter alia, that the trial court erred by allowing expert testimony concerning the contents of the 1999 district attorney investigator reports. Held: Reversed. An expert may “rely on hearsay in forming an opinion, and may tell the jury in general terms that he did so . . . What an expert cannot do is relate as true case-specific facts asserted in hearsay statements, unless they are independently proven by competent evidence or are covered by a hearsay exception.” (People v. Sanchez (2016) 63 Cal.4th 665, 685-686.) Here, it was proper for the experts to rely on the 1999 investigator’s reports in forming their opinions; however, relating the case-specific content of those reports to the jury violated Sanchez. Under People v. Watson (1956) 46 Cal.2d 818, the error was not harmless. The Court of Appeal concluded Roa’s challenges to the admission of other documentary materials were forfeited because the objections were not raised in the trial court.

The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: http://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/documents/B264885.PDF