Appeal from the 32nd District Court Nolan County, Texas Trial
Court Cause No. 19683
consists of: Wright, C.J., Willson, J., and Bailey, J.
M. BAILEY JUSTICE.
appeal from a civil commitment under Chapter 841 of the Texas
Health and Safety Code, a jury unanimously found that Ronnie
Lee Decker is a "sexually violent predator" as
defined in the Texas Health and Safety Code. See
Tex. Health & Safety Code Ann. § 841.003 (West
2017). Based upon the jury's affirmative finding, the
trial court entered a final judgment and order of commitment
requiring Decker to be civilly committed in accordance with
Sections 841.081-.082 of the Health and Safety Code for
treatment and supervision upon his release from a secure
correctional facility. See id. §§
841.081-.082. In a single issue on appeal, Decker contends
that the trial court erred by granting the State's motion
for directed verdict and finding that he is a "repeat
sexually violent offender, " an element of a
determination that a person is a "sexually violent
predator." Id. § 841.003
(emphasis added). We affirm.
State filed an original petition alleging that Decker is a
sexually violent predator. The State requested that Decker
"be committed for treatment and supervision." The
State alleged in the petition that Decker was a repeat
sexually violent offender based upon two convictions: (1) a
1972 conviction for "fondling" in Erath County for
which Decker was incarcerated and (2) a 1998 conviction for
sexual assault in Nolan County for which Decker was
case proceeded to a jury trial. During trial, the trial court
admitted several judgments of conviction and corresponding
indictments, including a conviction for sexual assault and
two convictions for indecency with a child. Decker received a
sentence of confinement for twenty years on the sexual
assault conviction, and he received sentences of confinement
for four years and between two and ten years on the
convictions for indecency with a child.
State called Decker as a witness at trial. At the time of
trial, he was near the end of serving the twenty-year
sentence for the sexual assault conviction. He testified that
the discharge date for the twenty-year sentence would be
March 30, 2018. Decker testified that he received probation
for the 1972 "fondling" conviction that he
subsequently violated, resulting in his incarceration. Decker
admitted to various other convictions during his testimony,
including the two convictions for indecency with a child.
the State rested its case, it moved for a directed verdict
"on the issue of whether or not Mr. Decker is a repeat
sexually violent offender as defined under Health and Safety
Code Section 841.003(b)." The State asserted that it was
entitled to a directed verdict because "reasonable minds
can only draw one conclusion" from the evidence
presented at trial. Decker responded to the motion by arguing
that Chapter 841 precludes a directed verdict in civil
commitment proceedings brought under the chapter. The trial
court rejected Decker's argument and granted the directed
verdict requested by the State.
Chapter 841 of the Texas Health and Safety Code, a trial
court must commit a person for treatment and supervision if a
factfinder determines the person is a sexually violent
predator. See Health & Safety § 841.081.
Section 841.003(a) provides that a person is a sexually
violent predator if he (1) is a repeat sexually violent
offender and (2) suffers from a behavioral abnormality that
makes him likely to engage in a predatory act of sexual
violence. Id. § 841.003(a). Section 841.003(b)
provides that "[a] person is a repeat sexually violent
offender for the purposes of this chapter if the person is
convicted of more than one sexually violent offense and a
sentence is imposed for at least one of the offenses."
Id. § 841.003(b).
sole issue on appeal, Appellant contends that Sections
841.061-.062 of the Health and Safety Code preclude a
directed verdict in a civil commitment proceeding brought
under Chapter 841. See Health & Safety
§§ 841.061-.062. Among other things, Section
841.061 provides that either the State or a respondent to a
civil commitment proceeding may request a jury trial.
Id. § 841.061(b). Section 841.062 provides that
the determination that a person is a sexually violent
predator must be established beyond a reasonable doubt and
that a jury determination to this effect must be by unanimous
verdict. Id. § 841.062. Appellant contends that
these procedural safeguards are "over and above those in
a normal civil case" and that they preclude a directed
verdict on any issue in a civil commitment proceeding.
was represented at trial and on appeal by the State Counsel
for Offenders. See id. § 841.005. The State was
represented at trial and on appeal by the Special Prosecution
Unit. See id. § 841.042; see also Tex.
Gov't Code Ann. §§ 41.301-.310 (West Supp.
2016). Both of these offices have done a commendable job of
apprising this court about the history of the civil
commitment proceedings for sexually violent predators and the
applicable case law on the issue presented in this appeal.
recent legislative amendment, Chapter 841 civil commitment
proceedings were initiated in Montgomery County. See In
re Commitment of Bohannan, 388 S.W.3d 296, 299 (Tex.
2012) (noting that, under prior law, all Chapter 841 civil
commitment proceedings were initiated in Montgomery County).
Thus, the vast majority of appeals in Chapter 841 civil
commitment proceedings were either decided by the Beaumont
Court of Appeals or were decided in accordance with the
Beaumont Court of Appeals's precedent as transfer cases.
See In re Commitment of Stuteville, 463 S.W.3d 543,
556-57 (Tex. App.-Houston [1st Dist.] 2015, pet. denied)
(noting that in Chapter 841 appeals, the court was bound by
the legal precedent of the Beaumont Court of Appeals);
see also In re Commitment of Wirtz, 451 S.W.3d 462,
463-64 n.1 (Tex. App.-Houston [14th Dist.] 2014, no pet.) (in
transferred appeal, transferee court must decide case in
accordance with transferor court precedent). After the recent
legislative change, Chapter 841 proceedings are now initiated
in the county where the alleged ...