The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Theis
JUSTICE THEIS delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.
Chief Justice Kilbride and Justices Freeman, Thomas, Garman, Karmeier, and Burke concurred in the judgment and opinion.
¶ 1 In these consolidated appeals, we are asked to clarify the quantum and scope of evidence needed to establish probable cause in a post-commitment discharge or conditional release proceeding pursuant to the Sexually Violent Persons Commitment Act (725 ILCS 207/1 et seq. (West 2008)). In both cases, the trial court found a lack of probable cause and dismissed the individual petitions for discharge or conditional release. In Stanbridge, the appellate court reversed, finding that the trial court improperly weighed contradictory evidence of the parties' respective experts. Stanbridge, 408 Ill. App. 3d 553. In Lieberman, the appellate court affirmed, over a dissent, finding that the expert did not present sufficient evidence on the relevant statutory elements to warrant a further hearing and did not comply with the statutory requirements for conditional discharge. Lieberman, 2011 IL App (1st) 090796.
¶ 2 We allowed petitions for leave to appeal in both cases (Ill. S. Ct. R. 315 (eff. Feb. 26, 2010) and consolidated the appeals for review. For the following reasons, we reverse the appellate court judgment in Stanbridge and affirm the appellate court judgment in Lieberman.
¶ 4 A. No. 112337, Kevin Stanbridge
¶ 5 The history of Kevin Stanbridge's civil commitment is detailed in the appellate court opinion. We will repeat here only those facts necessary to our analysis. Following a jury trial in 2005, Stanbridge was convicted of aggravated criminal sexual abuse (720 ILCS 5/12-16(d) (West 1998)), and his conviction was affirmed on direct appeal. People v. Stanbridge, No. 4-05-0585 (2007) (unpublished order under Supreme Court Rule 23).
¶ 6 In May 2005, during the pendency of Stanbridge's appeal, the State filed a petition to involuntarily commit him as a sexually violent person under the Sexually Violent Persons Commitment Act (the Act) (725 ILCS 207/1 et seq. (West 2004)). Following a trial on the State's petition, in October 2007, a jury found Stanbridge to be a sexually violent person as defined by section 5(f) of the Act (725 ILCS 207/5(f) (West 2004)). Thereafter, in February 2008, the trial court ordered him committed to a secure facility for institutional care and treatment until such time as he is no longer a sexually violent person. His commitment was affirmed on direct appeal. In re Kevin S., No. 4-08-0163 (2008) (unpublished order under Supreme Court Rule 23).
¶ 7 Within six months after his initial commitment, the Department of Human Services (Department) submitted its required evaluation report to the court on Stanbridge's mental condition to determine whether he had made sufficient progress to be conditionally released or discharged pursuant to section 55 of the Act (725 ILCS 207/55 (West 2008)). The report was prepared by Dr. Edward Smith. Stanbridge did not retain or request that the court appoint an expert to examine him at that time. He did not file a petition for discharge, but did not affirmatively waive his right to do so under the Act. Accordingly, the State then filed a motion for a finding of no probable cause based on Dr. Smith's evaluation report. On October 31, 2008, the trial court granted the State's motion, finding that no probable cause existed to warrant a hearing on the matter.
¶ 8 In March 2009, Stanbridge filed a petition for discharge under section 70 of the Act (725 ILCS 207/70 (West 2008)), which did not coincide with the periodic-evaluation process. The trial court appointed clinical and forensic psychologist Dr. Kirk Witherspoon to evaluate Stanbridge's mental condition to determine whether he was still a sexually violent person. Dr. Witherspoon submitted his amended psychological evaluation report to the court in January 2010.
¶ 9 While Stanbridge's petition for discharge was pending, in August 2009, the Department submitted its required periodic-reexamination report on Stanbridge's mental condition, which was conducted again by Dr. Smith. The State again filed a motion for a finding of no probable cause, attaching Dr. Smith's written report in support of the motion.
¶ 10 In January 2010, by agreement of the parties, the trial court held a joint probable cause hearing on both Stanbridge's petition for discharge and the State's motion for a finding of no probable cause based on the periodic reexamination. At the hearing, the court considered the two psychological evaluation reports submitted by Drs. Smith and Witherspoon and heard arguments of counsel.
¶ 11 Dr. Witherspoon's report indicated that his evaluation was based primarily upon his interview with Stanbridge, a review of Stanbridge's prior psychological evaluations, and various diagnostic tests designed to measure deviant sexual attitudes and behavior and to predict sexual offense recidivism rates. Based on this information, and consistent with his prior findings, Dr. Witherspoon's clinical impression was that Stanbridge's test results did not reveal ongoing evidence of deviant sexual psychopathology of any form and did not evince historic or current antisocial tendencies.
¶ 12 In determining Stanbridge's risk of reoffending, Dr. Witherspoon administered several actuarial assessment instruments, including the Static 2002R. He indicated this test was a revised version of the Static 99, which provides a more accurate measure of risk by better accounting for risk decline due to age and by providing more current demographic trends. Dr. Witherspoon stated that Stanbridge's scores showed that his antisocial tendencies were akin to that of average non-incarcerated males, and placed Stanbridge in a low relative sexual reoffense risk in comparison to other convicted sexual offenders. Dr. Witherspoon's opinion that Stanbridge's risk of reoffense was low was also based on other factors, including Stanbridge's age and his denial that he committed the offenses for which he was convicted. Dr. Witherspoon based his opinion on research showing that all forms of criminality decrease with advancing age, and that denial of sex crimes against minors is not a universally negative indicator relative to the risk of reoffending. In conclusion, Dr. Witherspoon's opinion was that Stanbridge did not meet the diagnostic criteria minimally necessary for involuntary commitment under the Act and that his risk of reoffending was not in the range necessary for such commitment.
¶ 13 Dr. Smith's evaluation was based on Stanbridge's Department records, a peer consultation and his prior six-month psychological examination. In Dr. Smith's report, he noted that Stanbridge declined to participate in the reexamination. Dr. Smith recounted Stanbridge's criminal and sexual offense history, including charges, convictions and other allegations of sexual offenses. He also recounted his personal history, education and employment, and his history of mental health and medical treatment, substance abuse, behavioral tendencies, and treatment. Dr. Smith concluded that Stanbridge met the criteria for the following diagnoses based on the guidelines in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, Text Revision (DSM-IV-TR): "(1) Paraphilia, not otherwise specified, sexually attracted to adolescent males, nonexclusive type;
(2) alcohol abuse in a controlled environment; (3) personality disorder, not otherwise specified, with antisocial traits; and (4) rule out pedophelia, sexually attracted to males, nonexclusive type."
¶ 14 In considering Stanbridge's risk of reoffending, Dr. Smith conducted two assessments not administered by Dr. Witherspoon, namely, the Static 99 and the Minnesota Sex Offender Screening Tool-Revised. Based on these assessments, Dr. Smith placed Stanbridge in the moderate to high category of recidivism risk on one assessment and in the high-risk category on the other assessment. Dr. Smith also considered other empirical risk factors based on scientific research that would likely contribute to Stanbridge's risk of reoffense, and concluded that he met those aggravating risk factors due to his personality disorder, substance abuse, intoxication during the offense, intimate relationship conflicts, and deviant sexual interest.
¶ 15 Dr. Smith also considered factors that might lower one's risk of sexual recidivism, including sex-offense-specific treatment, a serious and debilitating medical condition, and increased age. According to Dr. Smith, no medical issues warranted a decreased risk, and treatment-based risk reduction was not warranted because Stanbridge refused treatment. Additionally, because the research indicated no universal agreement on how age impacts recidivism rates, Dr. Smith opined that some age-based risk reduction was present, but that age was not currently a protective factor for Stanbridge. Accordingly, Smith concluded that a substantial probability existed that Stanbridge would engage in further acts of sexual violence due to his mental disorders.
¶ 16 After considering the expert reports and the parties' arguments, the trial court made the following findings:
"[T]he court found [respondent] to be a sexually violent person[-]had the appropriate diagnosis and findings [in February 2008]. [The court does not] see where the [State's] expert, *** Smith, has found that there is anything different than that, based on what has occurred between now and the time of the original finding.
Witherspoon, if [the court] remembers correctly, came up with many of the same conclusions at the time of the original hearing, and that's in fact what was determined by the jury. So it seems to [this court that] at this point[,] there is no probable cause to proceed with a full hearing on the matter, and the court would so rule."
The trial court denied Stanbridge's petition for discharge and granted the State's motion for a finding of no probable cause. The court order indicated that the court had considered both evaluations prepared by Drs. Smith and Witherspoon, but found that based upon a review of the reports related to the 18-month reevaluation of respondent, no probable cause existed to warrant further proceedings to determine whether respondent remained a sexually violent person.
¶ 17 On appeal, Stanbridge argued that the trial court improperly weighed the conflicting testimony of the parties' respective experts instead of determining whether the evidence presented established probable cause to warrant further proceedings. 408 Ill. App. 3d at 558. The appellate court agreed and reversed and remanded for further proceedings, concluding that the evidence presented was sufficient to establish probable cause. Id. at 563. We granted the State's petition for leave to appeal. Ill. S. Ct. R. 315 (eff. Feb. 26, 2010).
¶ 18 B. No. 112803, Brad Lieberman
¶ 19 The history of Brad Lieberman's commitment relevant to this appeal is detailed in the appellate court opinion and will be recounted here to the extent necessary to our disposition. In 1980, Lieberman was convicted of numerous counts of rape and sentenced to multiple concurrent terms of imprisonment. Shortly before his scheduled release date from prison in 2000, the State sought to have Lieberman involuntarily committed as a sexually violent person pursuant to the Act (725 ILCS 207/1 et seq. (West 2000)).
¶ 20 In February 2006, a jury found Lieberman to be a sexually violent person within the meaning of the Act. The mental disorders that formed the basis for Lieberman's commitment included paraphilia, not otherwise specified, sexually attracted to non-consenting persons (paraphilia NOS-non-consent). The State's experts described this type of disorder as one premised on intense recurring rape behaviors with non-consenting adults that cause distress or impair one's ability to function in society. Thereafter, in April 2006, the trial court ordered Lieberman committed to the Department for institutional care and treatment in a secure facility until further order of the court.
¶ 21 Lieberman appealed, arguing, inter alia, that the State failed to prove that he suffers from a serious lack of volitional control resulting from a current mental disorder, and failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he suffers from a mental disorder or that he presents any risk to reoffend. In re Detention of Lieberman, 379 Ill. App. 3d 585, 597-98 (2007). Specifically, he maintained that the State's expert's opinions and diagnoses did not meet the diagnostic criteria of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). Id. at 602. His commitment was affirmed on direct appeal. Id. at 611.
¶ 22 The record reflects that in October 2006, the Department conducted its mandated six-month reexamination to determine whether Lieberman had made sufficient progress to be conditionally released or discharged. In conjunction with the mandated six-month reexamination, Lieberman filed a petition for discharge or conditional release, which the court denied in December 2006. The following year, in October 2007, Dr. David Suire, an evaluator with the Department, conducted Lieberman's mandated periodic psychological reexamination to again determine whether Lieberman had made sufficient progress to be conditionally released or discharged. Dr. Suire reported that in his clinical judgment Lieberman continued to suffer from paraphilia NOS-non-consent, cannabis abuse, antisocial personality disorder, and narcissistic personality disorder. He ...