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In re Way

Supreme Court of South Carolina

September 3, 2014

In the Matter of the Care and Treatment of Vincent Neal Way, Petitioner/Respondent,
v.
The State of South Carolina, Respondent/Petitioner

Heard November 20, 2013

Page 702

Appeal From Charleston County. The Honorable Deadra L. Jefferson, Circuit Court Judge. Appellate Case No. 2011-199686.

Appellate Defender LaNelle Cantey Durant, of Columbia, for Petitioner/Appellant.

Attorney General Alan Wilson and Assistant Attorney General William M. Blitch, both of Columbia, for Respondent/Petitioner.

OPINION

Page 703

[410 S.C. 379] ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE COURT OF APPEALS

BEATTY, JUSTICE

A jury found Vincent Neal Way met the definition of a sexually violent predator (SVP) under South Carolina's SVP Act, S.C. Code Ann. § § 44-48-10 to -170 (Supp. 2013). The circuit court ordered Way to begin involuntary civil commitment for long-term control, care, and treatment in the SVP treatment program administered by the South Carolina Department of Mental Health. Way appealed, and the Court of Appeals affirmed. In re the Care & Treatment of Way, Op. No. 2011-UP-268, (S.C. Ct.App. filed June 8, [410 S.C. 380] 2011). This Court granted cross petitions for a writ of certiorari filed by Way and the State. As to Way's appeal, we affirm as modified, and we dismiss the State's petition for a writ of certiorari as improvidently granted.

I. FACTS

In 1993, Way pled guilty to committing a lewd act on a minor. The victim was Way's 13-year-old niece, who was spending the night with Way (who was then about 28 years old) and his wife. The victim reported that Way put his hand inside her clothing while she was sleeping on the couch and fondled her, kissed her thigh, and then laid on her and " began humping her." Way was sentenced to ten years in prison, suspended upon the service of eighteen months in prison and five years of probation.

In 1995, while on probation, Way pled guilty to contributing to the delinquency of a minor. In that matter, Way allowed two girls who were runaways, one 13 and one 15, to spend the night at his home without notifying the police.

While still on probation in 1997, Way pled guilty to committing a lewd act upon a minor. The victim was a 13-year-old girl, who reported that Way met her at a boat dock in 1995 and gave her marijuana, then had sexual intercourse with her. Way was sentenced to fifteen years in prison for this offense.

In 2007, prior to his release from prison, Way was referred to the multidisciplinary team, which determined there was probable cause to believe Way met the statutory definition of an SVP.[1] The multidisciplinary team referred Way's case to the prosecutor's review committee, which filed a petition with the circuit court for civil commitment proceedings. The circuit court concluded probable cause existed and ordered a mental evaluation of Way to be performed by Dr. Donna Schwartz-Watts. Dr. Schwartz-Watts performed an evaluation and was the State's expert. Way also obtained an [410 S.C. 381] independent mental evaluation by an expert of his own choosing, Dr. Tom Martin.

At the civil commitment proceeding in 2009, Dr. Schwartz-Watts testified that she believed Way suffered from a mental abnormality or personality disorder as defined by the SVP Act. Specifically, she diagnosed him as having a sexual disorder, not otherwise specified, based on his prior sexual history with several 13-year-old girls. She also diagnosed Way as having amnesia (for events prior to 1994) based on a head injury he sustained in a car accident in 1994. She found, however, that any memory loss was not due to brain damage because testing revealed Way has " a high average IQ."

Dr. Schwartz-Watts stated her evaluation indicated Way was likely to re-offend. In particular, she noted his subsequent offenses occurred while he was still on probation and the incidents occurred in places where others were ...


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