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In Re: the Commitment of Troy A. Curtner, A Sexually v. Troy A. Curtner

July 17, 2012

IN RE: THE COMMITMENT OF TROY A. CURTNER, A SEXUALLY VIOLENT PERSON, THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS,
PETITIONER-APPELLEE,
v.
TROY A. CURTNER,
RESPONDENT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from Circuit Court of Coles County Honorable James R. Glenn, Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Appleton

JUSTICE APPLETON delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Steigmann and Cook concurred in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

¶ 1 Following a jury trial, respondent, Troy A. Curtner, was adjudicated a sexually violent person under the Sexually Violent Persons Commitment Act (SVP Act) (725 ILCS 207/1 to 99 (West 2008)). On appeal, he argues the trial court erred by (1) declining to dismiss a juror who had posed a question to the bailiff midtrial regarding the extent of respondent's dangerousness; (2) failing to declare a mistrial when several jurors questioned whether respondent had access to their home addresses; and (3) rejecting respondent's proposed jury instruction of the definition of "substantially probable." For the following reasons, we affirm.

¶ 2 I. BACKGROUND

¶ 3 To provide a legal context for the background in this case, we note that three criteria must be alleged and established before a person may be committed as a sexually violent person under the SVP Act: (1) the person has been convicted of a sexually violent offense (725 ILCS 207/15(b)(1)(A) (West 2008)); (2) the person suffers from a mental disorder (725 ILCS 207/15(b)(4) (West 2008)); and (3) the person is dangerous to others because his mental disorder creates a substantial probability that he will engage in acts of sexual violence (725 ILCS 207/15(b)(5) (West 2008)).

¶ 4 In July 2010, the State filed a petition for respondent's involuntary commitment as a sexually violent person. The State alleged respondent had been convicted of a sexually violent offense, aggravated criminal sexual abuse (720 ILCS 5/12-16(d) (West 2000)), in Coles County case No. 02-CF-628, and sentenced to eight years in prison. In June 2010, prior to respondent's release, a psychologist, Dr. Martha Bellew-Smith, conducted a psychological examination, which revealed respondent suffered from paraphilia and a not-otherwise-specified (NOS) personality disorder with antisocial features. Dr. Bellew-Smith concluded respondent was dangerous to others and it was substantially probable that, without treatment, he would engage in future acts of sexual violence.

¶ 5 Also in July 2010, the trial court ordered respondent detained by the Illinois Department of Human Services upon his release from prison, after finding the State had sufficiently proved probable cause to believe respondent was subject to commitment as a sexually dangerous person.

¶ 6 In April 2011, respondent's jury trial began. Prior to the presentation of evidence, the parties stipulated to the admission of respondent's aggravated-criminal-sexual-abuse conviction in case No. 02-CF-628. Because the parties are familiar with the evidence presented at trial, we summarize only that which is necessary for the purposes of this appeal.

¶ 7 Dr. Bellew-Smith testified as the State's expert in the field of psychology and in detail about her pretrial examination of respondent. In general, she explained that respondent suffers from paraphilia, in that he has sexual urges or fantasies involving a non-consenting partner. In particular, he suffers from hebephilia, which is described as a sexual disorder whereby the person is aroused by pubescent females. He also suffered from an NOS personality disorder with antisocial features.

¶ 8 In Dr. Bellew-Smith's opinion, respondent was a moderately high risk to reoffend. Based on all of the characteristics applicable to respondent, the doctor opined that, to a reasonable degree of psychological certainty, it was substantially probable that respondent would commit acts of sexual violence. She testified that she used "more likely than not" to define "substantially probable" in this case.

¶ 9 Also testifying as the State's expert witness was psychologist Dr. Edward Smith. In September 2010, Dr. Smith prepared a report after meeting with respondent, which indicated that he and Dr. Bellew-Smith shared the same diagnoses of respondent-paraphilia and an NOS personality disorder with antisocial features. Dr. Smith further diagnosed respondent with depressive disorder, though that diagnosis was not particularly relevant to his predisposition to engage in sexual violence.

¶ 10 In Dr. Smith's opinion, to a reasonable degree of psychological certainty, due to his mental disorder, respondent is dangerous and there exists a substantial probability that he will engage in future acts of sexual violence. Dr. Smith defined "substantially probable" as "much more likely than not."

¶ 11 Respondent presented the testimony of his expert witness, Dr. Luis Rosell, a forensic psychologist, who diagnosed respondent with an NOS personality disorder with antisocial features. Dr. Rosell disputed the other doctors' diagnoses of paraphilia. He testified respondent did not meet the criteria of a sexually violent person.

¶ 12 After deliberations, the jury found respondent was a sexually violent person. In May 2011, respondent filed a posttrial motion, claiming (1) the jury's verdict was against the manifest weight of the evidence, and (2) he was entitled to a new trial based on the improper admission of certain evidence and several alleged trial errors, including (a) the trial court's instruction to the jury of the definition of "substantially probable," (b) the court's failure to excuse a juror who questioned whether respondent was dangerous enough to kill a potential victim, and (c) the jurors' inquiry as to whether respondent had access to their respective addresses.

¶ 13 In July 2011, the trial court denied respondent's motion, and in August 2011, the case proceeded to a dispositional hearing. The court remanded respondent to the custody of the Department of Human Services. This appeal followed.

¶ 14 II. ANALYSIS

¶ 15 A. Allegation of Impartial Jury

ΒΆ 16 Respondent first argues the trial court erred by not excusing the juror who, in the middle of trial, told the bailiff he would like to know if respondent was dangerous enough to "kill one of the kids." The bailiff brought this to the court's attention, and the court, in turn, brought it to the parties' attention. All agreed the juror should be questioned outside the presence of the other jurors. In chambers, the court advised the juror they were aware ...


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