People v. Williams

Citation77 Cal.App.4th 436,92 Cal.Rptr.2d 1
Decision Date10 December 1999
Docket NumberNo. H017023.,H017023.
PartiesThe PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. John T. WILLIAMS, Jr., Defendant and Appellant.
CourtCalifornia Court of Appeals

Paul Bernstein, under appointment by the Court of Appeal, Los Angeles, for Defendant and Appellant.

Daniel E. Lungren & Bill Lockyer, Attorneys General, George Williamson, Chief Asst. Atty. General, Ronald A. Bass, Senior Asst. Atty. General, Stan M. Helfman and Violet M. Lee, Deputy Attys. General, for Plaintiff and Respondent.


I. Introduction

In May 1997, after a trial, defendant John Williams, Jr. was committed to Atascadero State Hospital (ASH) for one year of involuntary treatment under the "Mentally Disordered Prisoners Act" (MDPA), Penal Code section 2960 et seq.1 The MDPA requires a court to commence trial at least 30 days before a defendant is scheduled for release from parole unless he or she waives time or the court finds good cause. Here, trial commenced after defendant's scheduled release date. Although defendant did not object to the trial date, he did not waive time; nor did the court hold a hearing on the issue of good cause or make an express finding that there was good cause for the delay in commencing trial.

We hold that the trial court's failure to comply with the statutory procedure concerning commencement of trial did not divest it of fundamental jurisdiction to proceed, and we further hold that defendant's failure to object to the trial date waived any claim of error based on noncompliance with the procedure. We also hold that the trial court did not automatically lose jurisdiction to proceed after defendant's scheduled release date.

II. Statement of the Case

In December 1991 defendant was convicted of assault and indecent exposure and sentenced to three years in prison. In 1993, while serving his term, he was transferred to ASH for psychiatric treatment. After defendant completed serving his sentence, he was retained at ASH for continued involuntary treatment as a condition of parole. Prior to his scheduled release from parole on May 18, 1997, the Santa Clara County District Attorney filed a petition seeking an additional year of commitment and involuntary treatment for defendant as a mentally disordered offender (MDO). After a trial on the petition, the jury found that defendant was dangerous due to his mental disorder, and the court committed him for an additional year. Defendant now appeals from the order of commitment.2

Defendant contends the trial court lacked jurisdiction to conduct a commitment trial because it failed to comply with the statutory time requirement for commencing trial. Alternatively, he contends the court lost jurisdiction to proceed on the day he was scheduled for release from parole. Thus, he claims the May 1997 commitment order is null and void. Defendant also contends that if trial counsel's failure to object before trial waived any claim based on noncompliance with the statutory procedure, then counsel failed to provide effective assistance.

Concerning his trial, defendant contends that the court erred in (1) telling jurors they would decide whether defendant would be released or confined, (2) qualifying a social worker as an expert witness, (3) sustaining an objection to a question defense counsel asked the social worker, and (4) misdefining "reasonable doubt" for the jury.

We affirm the order of commitment.

III. Facts

In a commitment trial, the determinative issues are whether the defendant has a severe mental disorder that is not in remission or cannot be kept in remission without further treatment, and whether the defendant presents a substantial danger of physical harm to others due to the disorder. (§§ 2970, 2972.)

Here, Dr. William Walters, a psychiatrist and chair of the psychiatry department at ASH, testified that defendant had been under his care since early 1996 and suffered from three severe mental disorders: schizophrenia, paraphilia, and voyeurism. Schizophrenia, Walters explained, causes delusions and/or defective perceptions and can lead to social withdrawal and isolation. At that time, defendant did not exhibit signs of psychotic thinking because he was taking medication that controlled it. Moreover, defendant had assured Walters he would continue to take his medication, although, according to Walters, he had in the past said he would not do so. Walters opined that defendant's judgment remained impaired but his schizophrenia would remain in remission as long as he took his medication.

Walters next explained that paraphilia is a sexual disorder that affects judgment and behavior, in that one's intense urges cause him or her to act out sexual desires. Paraphilia can involve having fetishes, using inappropriate sexual objects, and making obscene phone calls. Walters opined that defendant's paraphilia was not in remission.

Voyeurism, Walters said, is a mental disorder that involves fantasizing and masturbating while secretly watching partially clad women or women in the act of undressing. Although the technical description of the disorder implies that the woman must be undressing, Walters explained that the description is a guideline and not an inflexible definitional requirement. Walters opined that defendant's voyeurism was not in remission.

In support of his opinions, Walters related defendant's history of sexually oriented behavior. Walters noted that in 1989, defendant attempted to kidnap his girlfriend under circumstances that demonstrated, to Walters, sexual aggression toward women with whom he had a real or imagined relationship. In 1991, defendant masturbated while following a female jogger in his car, then stopped and attacked her. He was convicted of assault with intent to inflict great bodily injury and indecent exposure. Between 1991 and 1996, while incarcerated, defendant stalked female nurses. Although he curtailed this conduct when warned, he did not completely stop it.

Walters further related that in 1995, while defendant was at CONREP, a conditional-release outpatient program, he was arrested for making hundreds of obscene phone calls. Initially he admitted making the calls but later denied doing so. In November 1996, defendant physically prevented a female staff member from closing the door to her office. And from early 1996 through the middle of 1997, defendant asked for Vaseline daily and spent a lot of time in the bathroom, apparently masturbating. Defendant acknowledged this conduct, stopped it when reminded, but usually started again.

More recently, in April 1997, defendant saw scratches on the hand of a male staff member and said, "I thought that your wife had put razor blades in the area of her vagina and that you had cut your hand while feeling her." Walters considered this comment an indication that defendant was having sexual, if not sadistic, thoughts. Defendant's sexual obsessions and staring at female staff had also increased, possibly, Walters opined, in response to anxiety about his being released.

When asked whether defendant posed a substantial danger of harm to others, Walters testified, "Well, he has exhibited physical harm towards others in the past, [] on more than one occasion. Most of his behavior since the '91 arrest has not caused physical harm to others, but has been either unpleasant or intimidating or hyper-sexual. [¶] So, I would say that he certainly will continue to exhibit the signs of symptoms of, his sexual deviation if he does not take his medication, or if he has a relapse he will almost certainly exhibit violence toward others." On cross examination, Walters opined that at that particular moment in the courtroom, defendant did not represent a substantial danger of physical harm to others. Walters also acknowledged that in its last three reports, the ASH treatment team had concluded that defendant did not meet the strict criteria for recommitment. He noted, however, that the team had significant reservations about defendant's lack of treatment for sexual disorders.

Wanda Killion, a licensed clinical social worker and director of the CONREP program, testified that she began to supervise defendant's outpatient treatment in March 1994. Although he followed the rules, he did not engage in treatment, denied his offenses, and denied having psychological problems, all of which, in her opinion, made it difficult to provide effective help.

At CONREP, defendant acted abnormally. For instance, he would stand on his shoes in a bathroom stall facing the door. He would stare vacantly into space. And he made several hundred obscene phone calls. Killion continued to monitor defendant's treatment when he was returned to ASH. She said he appeared to be taking his medication, although he had in the past said he did not want to. Nevertheless, he continued to deny engaging in inappropriate sexual activity and staring at female staff, despite reports to the contrary.

Given defendant's conduct at CONREP and ASH, his denial of sexually related psychological problems, his failure to engage in appropriate treatment, and his apparent inability to reduce inappropriate sexual activity, Killion concluded that defendant's sexual disorders were not in remission. She further opined that defendant could present a danger of physical harm to others if his custodial status were changed. She said her opinion would not change even though the ASH treatment staff did not consider him a danger.

TV. Loss of Jurisdiction
A. Summary of the MDPA

The MDPA mandates involuntary treatment as a condition of parole for offenders who have been convicted of certain enumerated offenses where (1) the offender has a "severe mental disorder" that is not in remission or cannot be kept in remission without treatment;3 (2) the disorder was a cause of or aggravating factor in the commission of an enumerated...

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