In re Commitment of Dodson

311 S.W.3d 194 (2010)

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In re Commitment of Dodson

Texas Court of Appeals
311 S.W.3d 194 (2010)

Facts

Following an involuntary-civil-commitment proceeding, a jury found that David Dodson was a sexually violent predator and that he suffered from a behavioral abnormality that predisposed him to reoffend. Dodson offered expert testimony from a state-licensed sex-offender-treatment counselor who was not a medical doctor but had a doctorate in family sciences, a master’s in counseling and psychotherapy, over a decade of experience treating juvenile and adult sex offenders, and received over 3,000 hours of clinical training in the specialty. The counselor had interviewed Dodson for three hours, and Dodson introduced her testimony to support his assertion that he did not suffer from a behavioral abnormality, which was a prerequisite to the court’s finding that Dodson was a sexually violent predator. According to the statutory definition of behavioral abnormality, Dodson’s condition would have had to be such that it predisposed him to commit sexual violence to the extent that he was a menace to society. Dodson’s expert testified that behavioral abnormality was a legal rather than medical term; however, based on her experience assessing risks of sex offenders, she opined that Dodson had stopped engaging in the behavior that triggered his urge to reoffend. The state objected to the expert’s testimony, arguing that risk assessments were for treatment and not for determining whether patients have behavioral abnormalities. The district court excluded the testimony, noting that the counselor could well be an excellent sexual-offender treatment provider, however, was not qualified to present an opinion on whether Dodson was a sexually violent predator. Dodson appealed, arguing that the trial court abused its discretion by excluding the expert testimony because state law does not specify a particular field of expertise that experts must occupy; rather, the legislature contemplated a multidisciplinary approach to determining whether individuals are sexually violent predators and for providing treatment accordingly.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Horton, J.)

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