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In re Commitment of S.D.

Court of Appeals of Texas, Tenth District

January 8, 2020

IN RE THE COMMITMENT OF S.D.

          From the 54th District Court McLennan County, Texas Trial Court No. 2016-1391-2

          Before Chief Justice Gray, Justice Davis, and Justice Neill

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          REX D. DAVIS JUSTICE

         A jury found that Appellant Sylvester Dixon is a sexually violent predator, and the trial court ordered Dixon civilly committed pursuant to the Civil Commitment of Sexually Violent Predators Act (the SVP Act). See Tex. Health & Safety Code Ann. §§ 841.003, 841.081. Dixon has appealed, contending in his sole issue that "[t]he trial court committed reversible error by admitting evidence about [his] unadjudicated offenses." We will affirm.

         Background

         At Dixon's civil-commitment trial, the State first offered, and the trial court admitted as evidence, exhibits showing Dixon's prior convictions for murder in 1972, indecency with a child in 1980, indecency with a child in 1985, and indecency with a child (habitual) in 1991. The State then called Dixon as its first witness. The State questioned Dixon about the details of the 1972 murder. Dixon had pleaded guilty to the crime and had been sentenced to thirty-five years' imprisonment; however, Dixon acknowledged that he had been released on parole in 1980. The State then questioned Dixon about the details of the 1980 indecency-with-a-child offense. Dixon denied that he had committed the crime; however, he acknowledged that he had pleaded guilty to the offense and that he had been sent back to prison in 1980. Dixon had been sentenced to five years' imprisonment for the 1980 indecency-with-a-child offense but had been released from prison again in 1983.

         The State was thereafter questioning Dixon about whether he had committed sexual offenses against C.D., the victim of the 1985 indecency-with-a-child offense, when the State asked Dixon about whether he had also committed sexual offenses against W., C.D.'s brother. Dixon has never been convicted of committing any offense against W., and, at trial, Dixon denied having committed any offense against W. Dixon also denied that he had committed any offense against C.D., but he stated that he had pleaded guilty to the 1985 indecency-with-a-child offense[1] and that he had been sent to prison for the third time in 1985. Dixon had been sentenced to ten years' imprisonment for the 1985 indecency-with-a-child offense but had been released again in 1988.

         The State then questioned Dixon about whether he had committed sexual offenses against R. Like W., Dixon has never been convicted of committing any offense against R., and, at trial, Dixon denied having committed any offense against R. The State also asked Dixon about whether he had committed sexual offenses against J. Like W. and R., Dixon has never been convicted of committing any offense against J., and, at trial, Dixon denied having committed any offense against J. Dixon testified that he had, however, remained in jail while the case regarding J. was pending.

         The State was thereafter questioning Dixon about whether he had committed sexual offenses against A.B., the victim of the 1991 indecency-with-a-child offense, when the State asked Dixon about whether he had also committed sexual offenses against L., A.B.'s sister. Like W., R., and J., Dixon has never been convicted of committing any offense against L., and, at trial, Dixon denied having committed any offense against L. Dixon also denied that he had committed any offense against A.B.; however, Dixon admitted that he had pleaded guilty to the 1991 indecency-with-a-child offense, had been sentenced to forty years' imprisonment for the crime, and had returned to prison for the fourth time in 1991.

         Dixon testified that while in prison for the fourth time, he had been in a sex-offender treatment program for approximately sixteen months. Dixon stated that he had then been released from prison again in May 2006, at which time he had moved into a halfway house for about two years. Dixon said that he had participated in sex-offender treatment at the halfway house as well. Dixon acknowledged, however, that his parole had then been revoked and that he had been sent back to prison in May 2008. When the State asked Dixon about whether his parole had been revoked because he had sexually assaulted another resident in the halfway house, Dixon initially denied it, but, after further questioning, Dixon acknowledged that he had committed a sexual offense against another resident of the halfway house.

         Finally, at the time of his trial in January 2017, Dixon testified that he was set to be released from prison again in early 2018. Dixon acknowledged that he was no longer in sex-offender treatment. The State then asked Dixon, "But you do realize that you need further help so you can avoid creating more victims?" Dixon replied, "Well, I don't think so, because when I - - because when I was out - - when I was out, I - - I didn't mess with no kids. I didn't go around them."

         After Dixon testified, the State called psychiatrist Dr. Michael Arambula as a witness. Dr. Arambula testified that he was asked to evaluate Dixon to determine whether Dixon has a behavioral abnormality that makes him likely to engage in a predatory act of sexual violence. Dr. Arambula explained that in conducting his evaluation, he interviewed Dixon and also "looked at the investigative and legal records associated with all of Mr. Dixon's offenses," including the investigative records for offenses that did not lead to convictions. Based on his evaluation of Dixon and his review of the records, Dr. Arambula opined that Dixon has a behavioral abnormality that makes him likely to engage in a predatory act of sexual violence. Dr. Arambula testified that the clinical diagnosis that correlates to Dixon's sexual deviance is pedophilia-a typically chronic condition in which someone is sexually attracted to children and acts on his or her urges and sexual preferences. Dr. Arambula further stated that he has also diagnosed Dixon with a personality disorder with antisocial features.

          Dr. Arambula then testified that the facts of each sexual offense were important in helping him reach his opinion regarding Dixon. The State asserted that it therefore wanted to ask Dr. Arambula about each of Dixon's sexual convictions individually, beginning with the 1980 indecency-with-a-child conviction. In response to the State's questioning, Dr. Arambula testified that the types of records that he reviewed and relied upon with regard to the offense were investigative records, including statements taken from the victim. When the State asked Dr. Arambula what the records said about the offense, the following exchange took place:

[Dixon's Counsel]: Objection, Your Honor. I'm going to object to hearsay. I'm also going to request - -
THE COURT: Overruled.
[Dixon's Counsel]: Your Honor, I'm also going to request a running hearsay instruction regarding the information contained in Dr. ...

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