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People v. Winterhalter

May 23, 2000


Appeal from the Circuit Court for the 14th Judicial circuit Rock Island County, Illinois No. 98--MR--268 Honorable Larry S. Vandersnick, Judge Presiding

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Homer

Respondent was committed to a Department of Corrections facility pursuant to the Sexually Violent Persons Commitment Act (Act) (725 ILCS 207/1 et seq. (West 1998)). He appeals, arguing (1) the Act violates the Illinois and United States Constitutions' ex post facto, equal protection and substantive due process clauses; (2) the State failed to prove respondent is a sexually violent person beyond a reasonable doubt; (3) the trial judge erred in refusing to grant respondent's motion in limine in full; and (4) the trial judge failed to provide a statutorily required hearing prior to ordering respondent committed to a secure facility. After our careful review, we affirm.


Respondent was convicted in 1995 of the aggravated criminal sexual abuse of his niece (720 ILCS 5/12--16 (West 1994)) and was sentenced to five years' incarceration. Respondent was released on mandatory supervised release after serving less than two years of that sentence; however, based on an arrest for assault in Iowa, respondent's mandatory supervised release was revoked and he was returned to the Department of Corrections (DOC). Within 90 days of respondent's scheduled release, the State's Attorney filed a petition under the Act (725 ILCS 207/1 et seq. (West 1998)) to have respondent committed as a sexually violent person.

At trial, the State sought to introduce a police video taken following respondent's arrest in Iowa on assault charges. In this video, respondent admitted to having committed the 1995 offense. The State also sought to have respondent's niece, K.W, testify regarding the details of that crime. Respondent brought a motion in limine, seeking to bar these two pieces of evidence. The trial judge permitted the State to introduce the evidence; however, the State was limited to using only a 15-second portion of the videotape depicting respondent's admission and the State was barred from introducing testimony from respondent's niece regarding the impact of the crime.

K.W. testified that when she was 15 years old, she lived with respondent, his wife and the couple's children in their home. On one occasion the family was helping friends move. After respondent's wife and kids returned home respondent began "kissing on" K.W. Later, as K.W. and respondent walked home respondent knocked her down, got on top of her, and began putting his hand up her shirt and down her pants. She testified that she tried pushing him off and telling him to quit. Though she managed to get him off of her, he knocked her down again a short distance later. Again, she told him to stop and eventually he got off of her and they returned home.

Once at home, K.W. put on her nightgown and got into bed. According to K.W., respondent then came into her room and "had sex with [her]." She testified that, while respondent was raping her, he asked what she would do if he got her pregnant. K.W. started crying and said she did not know. At that point, respondent got dressed and went back upstairs and K.W. cried herself to sleep until her aunt came to wake her up.

In addition to K.W.'s testimony and the video segment, containing respondent's admission, the State presented expert testimony from two psychiatrists. Both Dr. Leavitt and Dr. Buck testified that respondent suffered from paraphilia (a sexual attraction to non-consenting or underage females), alcohol abuse disorder, antisocial personality disorder and borderline intellectual functioning. Dr. Buck testified that, based on the risk factors identified by researchers in the area of sex offenders, she considered respondent to be at high risk of reoffending with additional acts of sexual violence. Dr. Leavitt testified that, based on standardized psychological test scores, it was substantially probable that respondent would in the future commit additional acts of sexual violence.

Dr. Chapman, a psychiatrist, testified as an expert for respondent that respondent was partially retarded, had low intellectual functioning and was not likely to commit future acts of sexual violence. Respondent also introduced evidence, outside the presence of the jury, that if he was found sexually violent but a candidate for conditional release, he had a job and a place to live.

The jury found respondent to be a sexually violent person (SVP). The trial judge ordered respondent committed to a DOC facility. Additional facts necessary to our decision will be discussed below.


I. Constitutional Challenge

A. Ex Post Facto Prohibition

Respondent argues that because the Act is criminal in nature, his commitment violates the ex post facto prohibition of our state and federal constitutions. However, during the pendency of this appeal, our supreme court had occasion to consider this same argument and held that it was without merit. See In re Detention of David C. Samuelson, 1 ...

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