Walker v. Superior Court of the City & Cnty. of S.F.

Citation283 Cal.Rptr.3d 296,12 Cal.5th 177,494 P.3d 2
Decision Date30 August 2021
Docket NumberS263588
CourtUnited States State Supreme Court (California)
Parties Jeffrey WALKER, Petitioner, v. The SUPERIOR COURT OF the CITY AND COUNTY OF SAN FRANCISCO, Respondent; The People, Real Party in Interest.

12 Cal.5th 177
494 P.3d 2
283 Cal.Rptr.3d 296

Jeffrey WALKER, Petitioner,

The People, Real Party in Interest.


Supreme Court of California.

August 30, 2021
As Modified on Denial of Rehearing October 13, 2021

Erwin F. Fredrich, San Francisco, for Petitioner.

Benjamin Salorio, Public Defender (Imperial), and Darren Bean, Deputy Public Defender, for William Morse as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Petitioner.

No appearance for Respondent.

Xavier Becerra and Rob Bonta, Attorneys General, Lance E Winters, Chief Assistant Attorney General, Jeffrey M. Laurence, Assistant Attorney General, Seth K. Schalit, René A. Chacón and Moona Nandi, Deputy Attorneys General, for Real Party in Interest.

Opinion of the Court by Cuéllar, J.

494 P.3d 5
12 Cal.5th 184

The Sexually Violent Predator Act ( Welf. & Inst. Code, § 6600 et seq. (SVPA or the Act))1 allows the state to petition superior courts for the involuntary civil commitment of certain convicted sex offenders whose diagnosed mental disorders make them a significant danger to others and likely to reoffend after release from prison. The purpose of the SVPA is to protect the public from a select group of criminal offenders (sexually violent predators, or SVPs), and to provide these offenders with the necessary treatment for

283 Cal.Rptr.3d 300

their mental disorders. ( Hubbart v. Superior Ct. (1999) 19 Cal.4th 1138, 1143–1144, 81 Cal.Rptr.2d 492, 969 P.2d 584 ( Hubbart ).) Consistent with this goal, the Act relies on a number of procedural safeguards to ensure that only those offenders predisposed to criminal sexual violence can be committed, and only for as long as they need treatment. Section 6602,

12 Cal.5th 185

subdivision (a) of the Act provides one such safeguard: It requires the superior court to hold a "probable cause hearing" as an initial step in the judicial process for commitment. ( § 6602, subd. (a).) If the court determines that probable cause supports the state's petition, it must then hold an offender over for trial. (Ibid .) Otherwise, the court must dismiss the petition. (Ibid .)

What concerns us in this case is what kind of evidence the trial court may consider in making its initial SVPA probable cause determination. Specifically, we must resolve whether superior courts can admit certain hearsay evidence in psychological evaluation reports in finding probable cause to commit individuals under the SVPA. Petitioner Jeffrey Walker challenges the Court of Appeal's denial of his writ petition, arguing that the trial court admitted inadmissible hearsay in two evaluations in finding probable cause: factual details underlying two rape offenses that he had been charged with, but not convicted of, and resulted in convictions that did not qualify as predicate offenses for commitment under the SVPA. He contends that the trial court's decision to admit this hearsay concerning nonpredicate offenses represented prejudicial error.

We agree. Contrary to the Court of Appeal's reasoning, section 6602, subdivision (a) does not create an exception that allows hearsay regarding nonpredicate offenses to be introduced via evaluation reports. What we hold is that nothing in the statutory language, its legislative history, its place in the broader SVPA statutory scheme, or comparisons to other statutory provisions indicates the existence of a hearsay exception for such hearsay in expert evaluations. Nor does anything in the SVPA or our case law indicate that the Legislature — in creating the hearing as a safeguard for SVP candidates to test the sufficiency of the evidence supporting the state's petition and prevent meritless ones from proceeding to trial — must have created an exception for hearsay on nonpredicate offenses to be introduced via evaluations. Under these circumstances, we decline to find that the Legislature explicitly or implicitly created a hearsay exception in section 6602, subdivision (a), for this evidence.

Because the inadmissible hearsay was foundational to the trial court's probable cause determination, we must reverse and remand to the Court of Appeal, with instructions for it to remand the matter to the trial court so it can conduct a new probable cause hearing consistent with this opinion.

12 Cal.5th 186


In June 2015, the District Attorney of the City and County of San Francisco filed a petition to commit Walker as an SVP.2 At the time, Walker was nearing the end of a state

494 P.3d 6

prison term for a pandering conviction. ( Pen. Code, § 266i.)

Two mental health evaluations supported the petition. Thomas MacSpeiden and Roger Karlsson, psychologists appointed

283 Cal.Rptr.3d 301

by the Director of the State Department of State Hospitals (DSH), evaluated Walker shortly before the district attorney filed the petition. MacSpeiden and Karlsson were appointed pursuant to section 6601, subdivision (e), after the first two appointed psychologists disagreed whether Walker satisfied the statutory criteria to be an SVP. Both concluded that Walker satisfied the statutory criteria. MacSpeiden diagnosed Walker with "Borderline Personality Disorder" and "Other Specified Paraphilia, Sexual Activity with Non-consenting Persons"; Karlsson diagnosed him with "Antisocial Personality Disorder, augmented by a severe level of psychopathy."

In their evaluation reports, the psychologists discussed Walker's 1990 conviction for rape, a predicate " ‘[s]exually violent offense’ " under the SVPA. ( Welf. & Inst. Code, § 6600, subd. (b).) They also discussed the alleged facts regarding two charged sex crimes that did not result in convictions qualifying as sexually violent offenses. First, Walker was charged in 1989 with raping a 16-year-old victim. The trial court dismissed the rape charge prior to trial, but it convicted Walker of unwanted sexual intercourse with a minor. ( Pen. Code, § 261.5.) Second, Walker was charged with rape in 2005. A jury acquitted Walker of this charge (apparently, during the trial, it was determined the victim had lied), but it convicted him of pandering.

MacSpeiden and Karlsson obtained the details underlying the 1990 rape conviction from a September 1991 report from Walker's probation officer. The evaluations related the following details regarding the offense: Walker unsuccessfully approached the victim at a nightclub. He eventually pulled her onto the dance floor and danced with her, though she attempted to push him away when he tried to pull her closer. He then pulled her to the club's parking lot. She believed she could get in her car to drive away. When they arrived at her car, she pushed him away as he tried to pull her closer. She reluctantly agreed to give him a ride to his house. When they arrived at the

12 Cal.5th 187

location that he had directed them to, Walker reached across her and turned off the ignition. She rejected his attempts to kiss her and attempted to fight him off, but he raped her.

The psychologists obtained the details underlying the 1989 rape allegation from the 1991 probation report, and they obtained the details underlying the 2005 rape allegation from a police inspector's affidavit in support of an arrest warrant. In his evaluation, MacSpeiden quoted the documents’ description of events, which in turn summarized and quoted the victims’ account of Walker's conduct and statements leading up to, during, and after the alleged rapes. Karlsson also quoted the police affidavit, and he summarized the probation report's description of events.

In particular, the evaluations conveyed the following about the 1989 rape allegation: Walker met the victim at a car show, and he told her he was a photographer for a company hiring models. They met up five nights later, and Walker drove her to a park and took photographs of her. He then asked her to change into a swimsuit she had brought along. When she went into the bathroom to change clothes, Walker followed her, refused to leave, pushed her against the wall face first, groped her, and called her a " ‘bitch.’ " While repeatedly pushing her face into the wall, he forcibly had sex with her; he then forced her onto the floor facedown and continued to rape her. Afterward, Walker drove the victim to her car, and he grabbed her and forcibly kissed her before she left.

Regarding the 2005 rape allegation, the evaluations indicated that Walker introduced

283 Cal.Rptr.3d 302

himself to the 2005 alleged rape victim as the employee of a local radio station that was looking for help promoting the station at clubs. She readily conveyed her interest. They met a few days later, after he contacted her and informed her that he had some promotions at a few San Francisco clubs. He drove her up to San Francisco, and during the drive he instructed her on the procedures for working in a strip club...

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