Court of Appeals of Texas, Thirteenth District, Corpus Christi-Edinburg
appeal from the 214th District Court of Nueces County, Texas.
Justices Benavides, Hinojosa, and Tijerina
M. BENAVIDES, Justice
single issue, appellant Juan Vela appeals his civil
commitment as a sexually violent predator. See Tex.
Health & Safety Code Ann. § 841.003. He challenges
the State's use of evidence of details of his 1980
offenses and 1995 criminal convictions as part of the
State's expert testimony on the grounds that the
probative value of the evidence was substantially outweighed
by its prejudicial nature. We affirm.
Prior Sexual Convictions
was convicted on February 20, 1995, in Cause No. 93-CR-1379-F
in Nueces County, Texas of aggravated sexual assault of a
child which occurred on or about March 9, 1993, and he was
sentenced as a habitual felony offender. Tex. Penal Code Ann.
§§ 22.021, 12.42. On that same date, Vela was also
convicted of aggravated sexual assault of a child which
occurred on or about January 9, 1993. See id. §
22.021. Vela was sentenced to concurrent forty year sentences
in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice-Institutional
Division. In 1981, Vela was convicted of sexual conduct with
a minor and sentenced to seven months' probation in
Civil Commitment Proceeding
State filed its original petition seeking Vela's civil
commitment in June 2017 on the grounds that he qualifies as a
sexually violent predator pursuant to Chapter 841 of the
Texas Health and Safety Code. See Tex. Health &
Safety Code Ann. §§ 841.001- .153; In re
Commitment of Gomez, 535 S.W.3d 917, 919 (Tex.
App.-Corpus Christi- Edinburg 2017, pet. dism'd). Under
Texas law, a person can be found to be a "sexually
violent predator" if the person: "(1) is a repeat
sexually violent offender; and (2) suffers from a behavioral
abnormality that makes the person likely to engage in a
predatory act of sexual violence." In re Commitment
of Gomez, 535 S.W.3d at 919.
Texas crimes constitute sexually violent offenses.
See Tex. Health & Safety Code Ann. §§
841.002(8)(A), 841.003(b)(1); see also In re Commitment
of Stonecipher, No. 14-18-00143-CV, 2019 WL 1119780, at
*1 (Tex. App.-Houston [14th Dist.] Mar. 12, 2019, no pet.)
(mem. op.). A "[b]ehavioral abnormality" is "a
congenital or acquired condition that, by affecting a
person's emotional or volitional capacity, predisposes
the person to commit a sexually violent offense, to the
extent that the person becomes a menace to the health and
safety of another person." Tex. Health & Safety Code
Ann. § 841.002(2).
were two witnesses during the trial: the State's expert,
Darrel Turner, Ph.D., and Vela. Dr. Turner is a forensic
psychologist who has conducted approximately 150 evaluations
of sexual offenders in Texas and Louisiana in the state and
federal criminal justice systems. To prepare for his
testimony, Dr. Turner was furnished with records related to
Vela's criminal, medical, penal and institutional
history, as well as Vela's deposition in this case. Dr.
Turner interviewed Vela for approximately two hours and
performed psychological testing on him.
Turner testified that Vela suffers from a behavior
abnormality that makes him likely to engage in sexually
violent offenses. According to Dr. Turner, the two biggest
factors in determining the risk of reoffending sexually are
antisociality and sexual deviance. Dr. Turner testified that
Vela is sexually deviant primarily based upon his attraction
to prepubescent male children and that Vela met the criteria
established by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of
Mental Disorders (DSM-5) criteria for sexual deviance for
pedophilia. Pedophilia is a condition that affects a
person's emotional or volitional capabilities. Dr. Turner
further testified that Vela's history of offenses,
including sexual offenses, indicates a pattern of inability
to control his behavior. Vela has never successfully
completed parole or probation before committing another
offense and has been incarcerated most of his adult life.
Turner also diagnosed Vela with antisocial personality
disorder from the DSM- 5. He described someone with that
disorder as "an individual that basically sees
themselves as quite entitled, and as deserving of essentially
whatever they want." He ...