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Commonwealth v. Hunt, 462 Mass. 807 (2012)

Commonwealth v. Hunt, 462 Mass. 807 (2012)

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A jury civilly committed the defendant as a sexually dangerous person following a trial in the Superior Court. The Appeals Court affirmed his commitment. The Supreme Judicial Court granted the defendant’s application for further review.
A jury civilly committed the defendant as a sexually dangerous person following a trial in the Superior Court. The Appeals Court affirmed his commitment. The Supreme Judicial Court granted the defendant’s application for further review.

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Categories:Types, Business/Law
Published by: New England Law Review on Apr 22, 2013
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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07/05/2013

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N
EW
E
NGLAND
L
AW
R
EVIEW
M
ASSACHUSETTS
C
RIMINAL
D
IGEST
 
67
Commonwealth v. Hunt,462 Mass. 807 (2012)
C
ONTRIBUTING
E
DITOR
:
 
D
ANIELLE
F
LYNN
 
I. Procedural History
A jury civilly committed the defendant as a sexually dangerous personfollowing a trial in the Superior Court.
1
The Appeals Court affirmed hiscommitment.
2
The Supreme Judicial Court granted the defendant’sapplication for further review.
3
 
II. Facts
On December 3, 1990, the defendant pleaded guilty to threeindictments charging rape of a child and he was sentenced concurrently toState prison for eight to fifteen years on each of the indictments.
4
In 2004,the Commonwealth filed a petition seeking civil commitment of thedefendant as a Sexually Dangerous Person.
5
At trial, the Commonwealthoffered the testimony of two examiners and a forensic psychologist, each ofwhom opined that the defendant suffered from pedophilia, has a mentalabnormality as defined by statute, and is likely to commit further sexualoffenses if not confined.
6
Evidence that the defendant refused to participatein sex offender treatment programs while incarcerated was introduced andused by the experts over the defendant’s objections.
7
The defense put onthree experts, two of which opined that the defendant did not have amental abnormality as defined by statute.
8
The judge gave several juryinstructions on the issues of mental abnormality and sexual dangerousness,
1
Commonwealth v. Hunt, 462 Mass. 807, 808 (2012).
2
Id. at 809.
3
Id.
4
Id. at 808.
5
Id. at 809.
6
Id.
7
Commonwealth v. Hunt, supra at 810.
8
Id. at 809.
 
68
New Eng. L. Rev. Mass. Crim. Digest
v. 47 | 67
which the defendant now claims were erroneous.
9
On June 3, 2008,following the trial, a jury found the defendant to be a sexually dangerousperson.
10
 
III. Issues Presented
1. Did the possibility that evidentiary use would be made ofdefendant’s refusal to participate in sex offender treatment programsconstitute compulsion and violate the defendant’s privilege against self-incrimination because the admission of such evidence constitutes a penaltyto compel testimony?
11
 2. Are unsubstantiated rumors of rape admissible in sexuallydangerous person civil commitment proceedings?
12
 3. Did the judge’s instruction that, “[i]n this case, all the experts agreedthat the mental abnormality at issue is pedophilia, although the expertsdisagree about whether [the defendant] meets the clinical diagnosticcriteria for pedophilia” give the jury the false impression that all theexperts agreed that pedophilia is a mental abnormality?
13
 4. Did the judge’s instruction, “[y]ou may conclude that [thedefendant] is likely to commit a future act of sexual misconduct if you findthat [the defendant] has not committed any act of sexual misconductduring his incarceration,” give improper legal validation to theprosecutor’s argument?
14
 
IV. Holdings and Reasoning
A prisoner’s participation in sex offender treatment is not compelled by the possible evidentiary use of his refusal at a civil commitmentproceeding, and therefore, reference at trial to the defendant’s refusal toparticipate in sex offender treatment did not violate the defendant’s rightsunder either the United States Constitution or the MassachusettsDeclaration of Rights.
15
A statement is compelled where the penalties forthe prisoner refusing to incriminate herself are so severe that they are“capable of coercing incriminating testimony.”
16
In cases where theSupreme Court of the United States has found compulsion, the severe
9
Id. at 824-825.
10
Id. at 809.
11
Id. at 811.
12
Id. at 821-822.
13
Commonwealth v. Hunt, supra at 824.
14
Id. at 824-825.
15
Id. at 815-816.
16
Id. at 812, quoting McKune v. Lile
 ,
536 U.S. 24, 49 (2002) (O'Connor, J., concurring in the judgment).
 
2013
Commonwealth v. Hunt
69
penalty that compelled the self-incrimination was automatically imposedfollowing the defendant’s refusal to self-incriminate.
17
In this case, there isno mandatory penalty arising from the refusal to participate—the prisoneronly faces a possibility that the Commonwealth will attempt to use therefusal as evidence
if 
it seeks to civilly commit him as a sexually dangerousperson.
18
In addition, “the defendant’s refusal to participate in sex offendertreatment is not being used against him in a criminal proceeding; hisrefusal is insufficient alone to support a finding of sexual dangerousness,and the Commonwealth is merely giving ‘evidentiary value’ to hisrefusal.”
19
 Although there was no constitutional violation and evidence that adefendant in an SDP civil commitment proceeding did not receive sexoffender treatment is admissible, it is error to admit evidence that adefendant
refused
sex offender treatment where he could receive suchtreatment only by waiving confidentiality.
20
The jury may be inclined to believe that the defendant refused treatment because he did not want to betreated rather than the waiver of confidentiality.
21
Thus, the probativevalue of the refusal is substantially outweighed by the risk of unfairprejudice.
22
Therefore, the judge erred in admitting evidence that thedefendant refused sex offender treatment and should have admitted onlyevidence that he did not receive such treatment.
23
 Unsubstantiated rumors of rape that would be relevant only if offeredfor their truth are plainly not admissible in sexually dangerous person civilcommitment proceedings.
24
The evidence was not contained in anadmissible incident report and there is no applicable common-law rule ofevidence.
25
 The instruction incorrectly gave the jury the impression that all expertsagreed that pedophilia is a mental abnormality.
26
Two experts testified thatthe defendant may have met the criteria for pedophilia but did not meetthe legal definition of “mental abnormality.”
27
The judge’s instruction
17
See Lefkowitz v. Cunningham
 ,
431 U.S. 801, 806-808 & n. 5 (1977).
18
Commonwealth v. Hunt, supra at 815.
19
Id.
20
Id. at 816-818.
21
Id. at 819.
22
Id.
23
Id. at 820.
24
Commonwealth v. Hunt, supra at 823.
25
Id.
26
Id. at 824.
27
Id.

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