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Supreme Court affirms sexually violent predator status

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A man’s challenge to the finding that he is a sexually violent predator failed because the invited error doctrine precludes consideration of his claims on appeal, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled today. If it wasn’t for this error, three of the justices believed the defendant would have been entitled to relief.

In Matthew A. Baugh v. State of Indiana, No. 18S04-1007-CR-398, the justices affirmed the determination that Matthew Baugh is a sexually violent predator. He was convicted of two counts of Class B felony sexual misconduct with a minor. After such a conviction, a hearing may be held to determine whether the defendant also should be classified as a sexually violent predator.

Indiana Code Section 35-38-1-7.5(e) requires the court to appoint two psychologists or psychiatrists who have expertise in criminal behavior to evaluate the defendant and testify at the hearing. The hearing may be combined with a person’s sentencing hearing.

The trial court combined the two hearings and received two reports from the court-appointed psychiatrist and psychologist. Both found Baugh would be likely to commit future sex offenses, and one report stated he should be classified as a SVP. The two doctors did not testify at the hearing.

Instead of challenging their credentials as far as being able to evaluate Baugh or the fact they were not there in person to testify, Baugh’s counsel said it’s up to the court to make the SVP determination based on the convictions and the doctor’s reports. The trial court found him to be a SVP.

“The invited error doctrine applies here to preclude consideration of the defendant's appellate claims based on the absence of the doctors' live testimony at the hearing and the alleged insufficient expertise in criminal behavioral disorders,” wrote Justice Brent Dickson for the majority, with which Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard and Justices Frank Sullivan and Theodore Boehm concurred.

Justice Robert Rucker concurred in separate opinion in which the chief justice and Justice Sullivan joined. They believe that had it not been for the invited error doctrine, Baugh would be entitled to relief. Based on their interpretation of the statute, the doctors had to testify in person at the hearing, and had he asked for them to testify live, the trial court would have had to honor that request. But because he invited the trial court to make its determination based in part on the doctors’ reports, he can’t now challenge that decision.

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