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Illinois Supreme Court: No Appointed State Expert in SDPA Recovery Proceeding

On May 19, 2016, the Supreme Court of Illinois held the state could not use a handpicked expert witness to give testimony in a recovery proceeding under the Sexually Dangerous Persons Act (SDPA).

James E. Grant was convicted of attempting to sexually assault a neighbor and related charges, and the prosecutor sought to civilly commit him under the SDPA, 725 ILCS 204/0.01, in lieu of prosecution on one charge. The trial court found Grant to be a sexually dangerous person and remanded him to the custody of the Illinois Department of Corrections (DOC).

Thirteen years later, Grant petitioned for recovery. The trial court ordered the DOC to prepare a socio-psychiatric report in accordance with section 9 of the SDPA. Grant requested appointment of an independent psychiatrist, claiming he could not receive a fair evaluation from the DOC’s psychiatrist. His request was denied.

The DOC’s report noted that Grant did not participate well in the program, had not progressed much and denied some of the facts in his case, but nonetheless recommended that he be released because he was at low risk to reoffend. The state objected and moved to have a psychiatrist “appointed” to examine Grant because it disagreed with the recommendations in the report.

The trial court granted “appointment” and the state’s handpicked expert testified that she believed Grant would likely reoffend. The court then denied recovery, and Grant appealed.

The Court of Appeals held the state could not have a psychiatrist appointed unless the DOC report showed bias – something that had not been alleged. Further, “the presumption of impartiality would not apply to an expert handpicked by the State.” The state petitioned the Illinois Supreme Court for review.

The Supreme Court held there was no provision in the SDPA to allow the state to request an appointed expert. The DOC’s experts were already the state’s experts. There is a provision for appointment of an independent expert in proceedings for persons committed under the Sexually Violent Persons Act seeking conditional release, 725 ILCS 207/60(a). The absence of a similar provision in the SDPA means no such option was intended. Therefore, the decision of the Court of Appeals was affirmed, though the appellate court was also directed to “consider any additional issues that ... are likely to occur on remand.” See: People v. Grant, 2016 IL 119162, 52 N.E.3d 308 (Ill. 2016).

On September 1, 2016, the Court of Appeals held the trial court had abused its discretion when it denied Grant’s motion in limine to exclude certain testimony related to his prior sex offenses. Further, the Court found that Grant failed to raise a valid argument regarding the trial court’s use of certain jury instructions, including the definition of clear and convincing evidence. The case was remanded to the trial court for further proceedings. See: People v. Grant, 61 N.E.3d 226 (Ill. App. Ct. 5th Dist. 2016). 

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