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In re Commitment of Cavazos

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fifth District, Dallas

June 4, 2019


          On Appeal from the 282nd Judicial District Court Dallas County, Texas Trial Court Cause No. CV1770006

          Before Justices Schenck, Osborne, and Reichek



         On our own motion, we withdraw our opinion and vacate our judgment of May 8, 2019, and substitute this opinion in its place. This appeal involves a civil commitment pursuant to the Civil Commitment of Sexually Violent Predators Act. See Tex. Health & Safety Code Ann. §§ 841.001-.153. A jury found Jose Cavazos to be a sexually violent predator as defined in section 841.003 of the Texas Health and Safety Code. The trial court ordered Cavazos committed until his behavioral abnormality changes to the extent he is no longer likely to engage in a predatory act of sexual violence. See id. § 841.081. In a single issue, Cavazos contends the trial court erred in admitting certain evidence. We overrule appellant's issue and affirm the trial court's judgment. Because all issues are settled in law, we issue this memorandum opinion. Tex.R.App.P. 47.4.


         In August 2017, the State filed a petition seeking to commit Cavazos for treatment and supervision, alleging that Cavazos is a sexually violent predator. The State alleged that Cavazos had previously been convicted of two sexually violent offenses, triggering statutory eligibility for civil commitment. These offenses occurred in Dallas and Hidalgo Counties. The State further alleged that an expert had performed a clinical assessment of Cavazos and found he suffers from a behavioral abnormality that makes him likely to engage in a predatory act of sexual violence. At the time the petition was filed, Cavazos was in his mid-60s, in poor health, and had been incarcerated for more than 24 years. Cavazos was scheduled to be released from prison by August 30, 2019.

         At trial, the State called two witnesses, Dr. Randall Price and Cavazos himself. The State also introduced into evidence Cavazos' penitentiary packets. Dr. Price is the forensic psychologist the State hired to evaluate Cavazos. After describing his background, training, and how forensic evaluations are conducted, Dr. Price briefly described the process that leads to a civil commitment proceeding.[1] He testified that close to the time that an inmate will be released from incarceration, prison employees will examine the inmate's records to determine whether he has two or more convictions for sexual offenses. If so, he is considered for an initial evaluation. Thereafter, he may be referred to a "Multi-Disciplinary Team" that will further examine his file and decide whether to seek a forensic psychological evaluation. From there, the inmate may be referred to the Special Prosecution Unit in Huntsville or to the county in which the person was most recently convicted of a sexually violent offense. The Special Prosecution Unit or the county may in turn obtain a psychological evaluation before deciding whether to proceed with a request for civil commitment. In those instances, a forensic psychologist like Dr. Price will typically review all of the inmate's criminal and medical records, including the previous evaluations, and conducts a face-to-face interview to assess whether the inmate has a behavioral abnormality.

         Dr. Price went on to describe his involvement in Cavazos' case and his opinions concerning whether Cavazos is a sexually violent predator. Before interviewing Cavazos, Dr. Price reviewed Cavazos' offense reports, police reports, court documents, prison file, and psychological and psychiatric evaluations.

         Dr. Price described Cavazos' criminal history in great detail and explained that his history is relevant to determining whether he has a behavioral abnormality. Cavazos' record showed a pattern of nearly four decades of serious sexual offenses, most of which involved pre-pubescent boys. Cavazos record further showed he had been sent to juvenile facilities for punishment and treatment, had received sex offender treatment in a California state hospital, had received shock probation, and served time in prison, and that despite his numerous pronouncements that he would not offend again, he did repeatedly so.

         Dr. Price enumerated that Cavazos began committing sexual offenses against children at the age of 15. He explained that age 15 is a very early age to start committing offenses against other children and is very significant because the sexual deviancy is more ingrained and more significant when it begins at an early age. He expounded that "early starters" tend to commit more sexual offenses, even after being caught and sanctioned.

         Dr. Price testified that Cavazos' first victims were 8 and 11 years old. These children were strangers to Cavazos, meaning he had known them for less than 24 hours when the assaults occurred. Dr. Price testified about additional offenses Cavazos committed in the early 1970s, 1978, 1980, 1981, 1984, and 1994. Cavazos committed the offenses in multiple jurisdictions, including California, Louisiana, and Texas.

         Dr. Price stated that Cavazos admitted to him that he had victimized approximately 30 children, some of whom he sexually assault on more than one occasion. Dr. Price indicated that in his experience offenders like Cavazos tend to under report the number of their victims. Cavazos further admitted to Dr. Price that he used his position as a volunteer baseball coach and his job as an ice-cream truck-driver to attain access to some of the children he molested. He also molested children he picked up at shopping malls, fairs, and parks. He also shared his typical modus operandi. He would give them money or pay for arcade games and cokes before convincing them to go into a restroom with him where the molestation then would occur. During the interview, which took place approximately 3 months before trial, Cavazos admitted to Dr. Price that he is still interested in boys, and that when he gets out of prison he plans on going to malls.

         Dr. Price testified that he used the information he gathered from his review of the records and his interview to complete several actuarial instruments to assist in assessing whether Cavazos risks reoffending. The first actuarial instrument Dr. Price completed is the STATIC-99R, an instrument that measures certain risk factors for reoffending. Cavazos received a score of "6," which means he has a "well above average" risk of reoffending. Dr. Price also completed a PCLR examination, which is the Psychopathy Checklist Revised examination. That instrument looks at 20 personality traits of a psychopathic personality. Results can range from 0 to 40. A score of 30 or more indicates a psychopath. Cavazos scored 27 on this examination. Dr. Price testified, that in light of additional records he received after calculating Cavazos' score, Cavazos' score might be higher.

         Dr. Price diagnosed appellant with pedophilic disorder, anti-social personality disorder, [2]and major depressive disorder.[3] Pedophilic disorder means the individual is sexually attracted to pre-pubescent children and has acted on those urges. He explained that pedophilia is a very difficult disorder to cure. Treatment is typically aimed at management against reoffending. Dr. Price testified that Cavazos admitted to having sex with other offenders while in prison despite rules prohibiting such behavior, which further demonstrates Cavazos lacks volitional control ...

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