In re Commitment of Fields 2014 IL 115542

 

 

Appellate citation: 2012 IL App (1st) 112191.

 

      JUSTICE FREEMAN delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.

      Chief Justice Garman and Justices Thomas, Kilbride, Karmeier, Burke, and Theis concurred in the judgment and opinion.

      This Cook County respondent pled guilty to simple battery and was sentenced to probation after being arrested for criminal sexual abuse in 2000 when he was 15 years old. That offense involved a nine-year-old boy. In 2005, when he was 20 years old, he pled guilty to aggravated criminal sexual abuse and kidnapping, again involving a nine-year-old boy. In this later offense, he had lured the victim into his car and took him to a vacant apartment. Shortly before he was scheduled to begin mandatory supervised release, the State petitioned to have him involuntarily committed under the Sexually Violent Persons Act.

      A jury trial on the State’s request was held in 2011. Expert testimony there brought out his behavior while incarcerated. He had exhibited many behavioral problems consistent with an antisocial attitude, and he had received numerous citations for rule violations, insolence, threats, intimidation and assault. He was found in possession of a drawing of a nude child with a male figure standing over him, and he was investigated for creation and distribution of what appeared to be pornographic materials, including producing a DVD with images of young children. Two experts opined at trial that it was substantially probable that the respondent would commit future acts of sexual violence.

      The jury found respondent to be a sexually violent person under the Act. He then requested a date for a dispositional hearing and a prehearing evaluation. The court denied these requests, saying it already had sufficient information to make its dispositional ruling based on the evidence presented at trial. The court then ordered commitment to a secure treatment and detention facility, and respondent appealed. The appellate court held that the State had proved beyond a reasonable doubt that the respondent was a sexually violent person and that judgment was affirmed by the Illinois Supreme Court here.

      However, the appellate court had vacated the circuit court’s commitment order, concluding that the trial court erred by not holding a hearing to afford the respondent an opportunity to introduce testimony and evidence as part of the dispositional phase.

      Although the State acknowledged that the Act requires a dispositional hearing, it argued that the trial court acted within its discretion. Counsel for respondent told the court “we do have a witness we want to put on for a dispositional hearing, but the judge said, “I think pursuant to statute I’m entitled at this stage based on what I heard, to make that determination independently. So that’s what I’m going to rule.” The State theorized that the circuit court had in fact held a dispositional hearing but adjourned it, denying a continuance for the presentation of further evidence. In this decision, the supreme court rejected this argument, stating that no dispositional hearing ever occurred—there was no opportunity for the respondent to present evidence or argument regarding a disposition. The appellate court had vacated the commitment order and remanded for a dispositional hearing, and that judgment was affirmed in this decision.