People v. Williams, No. S107266.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court (California)
Writing for the CourtBAXTER, J.
Citation3 Cal.Rptr.3d 684,31 Cal.4th 757,74 P.3d 779
PartiesThe PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. Robert WILLIAMS, Defendant and Appellant.
Decision Date21 August 2003
Docket NumberNo. S107266.

3 Cal.Rptr.3d 684
31 Cal.4th 757
74 P.3d 779

The PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent,
v.
Robert WILLIAMS, Defendant and Appellant

No. S107266.

Supreme Court of California.

August 21, 2003.

Certiorari Denied February 23, 2004.


3 Cal.Rptr.3d 685
Gerald J. Miller, under appointment by the Supreme Court of Appeal, Agoura Hills, for Defendant and Appellant

Bill Lockyer, Attorney General, Robert R. Anderson, Chief Assistant Attorney General, Gary W. Schons, Assistant Attorney General, Steven T. Oetting, Bradley A. Weinreb, Janelle Boustany and Felicity Senoski, Deputy Attorneys General, for Plaintiff and Respondent.

Certiorari Denied February 23, 2004. See 124 S.Ct. 1431.

BAXTER, J.

In Kansas v. Crane (2002) 534 U.S. 407, 122 S.Ct. 867, 151 L.Ed.2d 856, the United States Supreme Court held that the safeguards of personal liberty embodied in the due process guaranty of the federal Constitution prohibit the involuntary confinement of persons on the basis that they are dangerously disordered without "proof [that they have] serious difficulty in controlling [their dangerous] behavior." (Id. at p. 413, 122 S.Ct. 867.) California's Sexually Violent Predators Act (SVPA or Act; Welf. & Inst.Code, § 6600 et seq.)1 does not use that precise language in defining who is eligible for involuntary civil commitment as a sexually violent predator.

In September 2001, before Kansas v. Crane, supra, 534 U.S. 407, 122 S.Ct. 867, 151 L.Ed.2d 856, was decided, defendant was committed under the SVPA by a jury that received instructions in the statutory language. However, the jury was not separately and specifically instructed on the need to find serious difficulty in controlling behavior. Defendant claims a separate

3 Cal.Rptr.3d 686
"control" instruction was constitutionally necessary under Kansas v. Crane.

The Court of Appeal correctly rejected this contention. By its express terms, the SVPA limits persons eligible for commitment to those few who have already been convicted of violent sexual offenses against multiple victims (§ 6600, subd. (a)(1)), and who have "diagnosed mental disorder[s]" (ibid.) "affecting the emotional or volitional capacity" (id., subd. (c)) that "predispose[ ] [them] to the commission of criminal sexual acts in a degree constituting [them] menace[s] to the health and safety of others" (ibid.), such that they are "likely [to] engage in sexually violent criminal behavior" (id., subd. (a)(1)). This language inherently encompasses and conveys to a fact finder the requirement of a mental disorder that causes serious difficulty in controlling one's criminal sexual behavior. The SVPA's plain words thus suffice "to distinguish the dangerous sexual offender whose serious mental illness, abnormality, or disorder subjects him to civil commitment from the dangerous but typical recidivist convicted in an ordinary criminal case." (Kansas v. Crane, supra, 534 U.S. 407, 413, 122 S.Ct. 867, 151 L.Ed.2d 856.) Several other state courts have reached the same result when considering the effect of Kansas v. Crane on statutes similar to the SVPA.

Moreover, even if instructional error had occurred, the Court of Appeal properly found no prejudice. On the evidence presented at defendant's trial, no rational jury could have failed to find he harbored a mental disorder that made it seriously difficult for him to control his violent sexual impulses. Hence, the absence of a "control" instruction was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt.

Accordingly, we will affirm the judgment of the Court of Appeal.

FACTS

In January 1981, and again in June 1981, defendant forcibly raped separate victims. In the first 1981 incident, defendant masturbated in front of a woman in a laundromat. He then grabbed her, and, as she attempted to flee, she fell. Defendant recaptured her, dragged her to a nearby park, and began to rape her. When police arrived, the rape was still in progress, and they had to physically remove defendant from on top of the victim.

In the second 1981 incident, defendant, who was sitting behind a woman at a stadium concert, began touching and harassing her. When she got up to use the rest-room, he followed her and dragged her into a men's room that was posted with an "out of order" sign. The victim said she needed to take medicine and asked if she could get into her purse, hoping to retrieve a knife to defend herself. Defendant replied, "No, bitch. I am no fool." He then threw her down, beat her with his fists, tore off her clothes, forced her to orally copulate him, and raped her. Defendant was convicted of two counts of rape and sentenced to state prison.

He was paroled in early 1987. In June 1987, while still on parole, he gained entry to a home near where he was staying by telling the female resident that he needed to use her telephone to get help with his disabled vehicle. When she left the living room to allow him to make the call in private, he followed her into her bedroom. He told her he had been watching her and announced his intentions. When she tried to scream and fight him off, he slapped her. He threw her down on the bed, spread her legs with his hand, removed her clothing, and raped her. When he was finished, she persuaded him to leave and called the police. Before they arrived, he returned to her residence two more times to attempt to retrieve his eyeglasses. Defendant

3 Cal.Rptr.3d 687
was convicted of burglary, sexual battery, and three counts of rape. He was again sentenced to state prison

During both his prison terms, defendant engaged in acts of sexual misconduct. While serving his first term, he exposed himself to female prison staff. During his second term, he openly masturbated in the prison library and exposed himself in groups where females were present.

In June 1999, as defendant approached the parole date for his second term, the San Bernardino County District Attorney filed a petition alleging that he was a sexually violent predator. In December 1999, while confined at Atascadero State Hospital awaiting his SVPA trial, defendant exposed himself and masturbated publicly in the patient dining room.

At the trial in September 2001, the prosecution called as expert witnesses Dr. Dennis Sheppard and Dr. Kent Franks, both licensed psychologists. Both witnesses reviewed documents detailing defendant's past crimes, as well as his clinical records. After being informed of his right to do so, defendant had declined to be interviewed by Dr. Sheppard. Defendant had spoken at some length on one occasion with Dr. Franks, but he refused to answer specific questions and declined a second interview. Based on the available information, both experts testified that defendant met the criteria for commitment under the SVPA.

Among other things, Dr. Sheppard testified as follows: Defendant suffers from "paraphilia, not otherwise specified" (paraphilia NOS)—a mental disorder characterized by intense and recurrent fantasies, urges, and behaviors about sex with nonconsenting persons, which symptoms persist for six months or more and cause significant dysfunction or personal distress. Paraphilic rape is "that obsessive driven rape uncontrollable for the most part that [persons with this disorder]—you know, feel driven to commit." The singleminded determination with which defendant repeatedly pursued the consummation of his desire for nonconsensual sex, regardless of circumstances or surroundings, is evidence of defendant's paraphilia,2 as are his persistent episodes of public exposure and masturbation in confinement. Another important factor is defendant's own acknowledgement of his sexual pathology, "similar to, you know, `I feel like a fish on a hook and I don't have control.'"

Dr. Sheppard explained that paraphilia is a chronic, incurable disorder, though patients can be helped to control their sexually deviant behaviors. However, said Dr. Sheppard, defendant's emotional or volitional control is further impaired by the fact that he also suffers from a delusional disorder known as "psychosis, not otherwise specified" (psychosis NOS). According to Dr. Sheppard, this condition increases his impulsivity and makes him less likely to appreciate the reality of the situation. In Dr. Sheppard's view, defendant's disorders predispose him to sexually violent criminal behavior, as evidenced by his repeated misconduct of this nature and the fact that "even in a controlled setting [he] continues to sexually act out in about the only way he can."

When asked to explain his understanding of the SVPA's legal standard for a diagnosable mental disorder, Dr. Sheppard said he thought that by encompassing both congenital and acquired conditions, and both emotional and volitional impairments, the law meant "to indicate that, you know, it doesn't matter whether you got this disorder from biology or whether you

3 Cal.Rptr.3d 688
learned it. And that ... the disorder impairs your emotional or volitional control and that because of that mental disorder that impairs those, that you are likely to commit sexually violent acts." Asked to assess defendant's overall risk of reoffense, Dr. Sheppard opined that "he has a high likelihood of reoffending" if released without treatment

Dr. Franks also diagnosed defendant with paraphilia NOS and psychosis NOS, and he agreed with Dr. Sheppard that defendant's rapes were of the paraphilic type. Dr. Franks further concluded that defendant suffers from polysubstance abuse—i.e., drug and alcohol dependence—and severe "personality disorder, not otherwise specified," with paranoid and antisocial features. According to Dr. Franks, defendant does not "have very good control over his impulses or his emotions in general because he suffers from a mental illness," and his drug and alcohol dependence exacerbates the problem by further reducing inhibitions.

Assessing the "dynamic" factors affecting defendant's risk of reoffense (i.e., those environmental and psychological factors that could be expected to...

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221 practice notes
  • People v. McKee, No. D050554.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • 20 d4 Março d4 2008
    ...trial (former §§ 6603, subd. (d), 6604), are found beyond a reasonable doubt to be an SVP (former § 6604). (People v. Williams (2003) 31 Cal.4th 757, 764, 3 Cal.Rptr.3d 684, 74 P.3d 779; Hubbart v. Superior Court (1999) 19 Cal.4th 1138, 1143, 1147, 81 Cal.Rptr.2d 492, 969 P.2d 584 (Hubbart)......
  • People v. Calderon, No. F044054.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • 2 d4 Junho d4 2005
    ...harbored implied malice. (See Neder v. United States (1999) 527 U.S. 1, 19, 119 S.Ct. 1827, 144 L.Ed.2d 35; People v. Williams (2003) 31 Cal.4th 757, 760, 3 Cal.Rptr.3d 684, 74 P.3d 779; People v. Nguyen (2000) 24 Cal.4th 756, 765, 102 Cal.Rptr.2d 548, 14 P.3d Two cases illustrate this poin......
  • People v. Field, D069661
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • 6 d3 Julho d3 2016
    ...reversible error by denying his request for a pinpoint instruction that explained this legal principle.In People v. Williams (2003) 31 Cal.4th 757 at pages 774 through 776, 3 Cal.Rptr.3d 684, 74 P.3d 779 (Williams ), the California Supreme Court rejected a substantially similar argument to ......
  • People v. Orey, G058040
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • 30 d2 Março d2 2021
    ...jury on issues of "volitional impairment" and "serious difficulty controlling sexually violent behavior." In People v. Williams (2003) 31 Cal.4th 757, 774-776, 3 Cal.Rptr.3d 684, 74 P.3d 779 ( Williams ), the SVPA defendant challenged his commitment under the SVPA on the ground the jury was......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
221 cases
  • People v. McKee, No. D050554.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • 20 d4 Março d4 2008
    ...trial (former §§ 6603, subd. (d), 6604), are found beyond a reasonable doubt to be an SVP (former § 6604). (People v. Williams (2003) 31 Cal.4th 757, 764, 3 Cal.Rptr.3d 684, 74 P.3d 779; Hubbart v. Superior Court (1999) 19 Cal.4th 1138, 1143, 1147, 81 Cal.Rptr.2d 492, 969 P.2d 584 (Hubbart)......
  • People v. Calderon, No. F044054.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • 2 d4 Junho d4 2005
    ...harbored implied malice. (See Neder v. United States (1999) 527 U.S. 1, 19, 119 S.Ct. 1827, 144 L.Ed.2d 35; People v. Williams (2003) 31 Cal.4th 757, 760, 3 Cal.Rptr.3d 684, 74 P.3d 779; People v. Nguyen (2000) 24 Cal.4th 756, 765, 102 Cal.Rptr.2d 548, 14 P.3d Two cases illustrate this poin......
  • People v. Field, D069661
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • 6 d3 Julho d3 2016
    ...reversible error by denying his request for a pinpoint instruction that explained this legal principle.In People v. Williams (2003) 31 Cal.4th 757 at pages 774 through 776, 3 Cal.Rptr.3d 684, 74 P.3d 779 (Williams ), the California Supreme Court rejected a substantially similar argument to ......
  • People v. Orey, G058040
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • 30 d2 Março d2 2021
    ...jury on issues of "volitional impairment" and "serious difficulty controlling sexually violent behavior." In People v. Williams (2003) 31 Cal.4th 757, 774-776, 3 Cal.Rptr.3d 684, 74 P.3d 779 ( Williams ), the SVPA defendant challenged his commitment under the SVPA on the ground the jury was......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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