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In re Care and Treatment of Campbell

Supreme Court of South Carolina

June 26, 2019

In the Matter of the Care and Treatment of Kenneth Campbell, Petitioner. Appellate Case No. 2016-001566

          Heard March 29, 2018


          Appeal from Lancaster County R. Knox McMahon, Circuit Court Judge

          Appellate Defender Susan Barber Hackett, of Columbia, for Petitioner.

          Attorney General Alan McCrory Wilson and Senior Assistant Deputy Attorney General Deborah R.J. Shupe, both of Columbia, for Respondent.


         A Lancaster County jury found Kenneth Campbell met the statutory definition of a sexually violent predator (SVP) under South Carolina's SVP Act, SC Code Ann. §§ 44-48-10 to -170 (2018). Campbell appealed, and the court of appeals affirmed. In re Care & Treatment of Campbell, Op. No. 2016-UP-198 (S.C. Ct. App. filed May 11, 2016). On certiorari, Campbell contends the court of appeals erred in affirming his civil commitment because the State inappropriately impeached the credibility of Campbell's expert witness by introducing evidence of a recent arrest warrant for an unrelated sex offender whom the expert had opined was unlikely to reoffend. We find the admission of testimony about a mere arrest warrant of an unrelated individual in a collateral matter unduly prejudiced Campbell and, therefore, reverse and remand for a new commitment proceeding.

         I. Factual / Procedural History

         The State referred Campbell to the SVP program due to his four alleged sexual assaults of three minor children with whom Campbell slept in the same house. For two of the assaults, the four-year-old victims recanted, and the State either dropped the charges or declined to press charges. For the remaining two assaults, one of which was committed while Campbell was out on bond for the other, Campbell entered an Alford[1] plea to criminal sexual conduct with a minor in the first degree (CSCM-1st) and pled no contest to committing a lewd act on a child under the age of sixteen. He received an aggregate sentence of twenty years' imprisonment, suspended upon the service of twelve years' imprisonment and three years' probation.

         Prior to Campbell's release, the State filed a petition pursuant to the SVP Act seeking Campbell's civil commitment for long-term control, care, and treatment. See S.C. Code Ann. § 44-48-30(1) (defining an SVP as "a person who: (a) has been convicted of a sexually violent offense; and (b) suffers from a mental abnormality or personality disorder that makes the person likely to engage in acts of sexual violence if not confined in a secure facility for long-term control, care, and treatment"). The trial court made a determination of probable cause and appointed Dr. Marie Gehle to perform a psychiatric evaluation of Campbell. Dr. Gehle diagnosed Campbell with pedophilia but opined he was not at a high risk to reoffend. The State then obtained an independent evaluation from Dr. Ana Gomez.

         At the jury trial, Dr. Gomez testified on behalf of the State and was qualified as an expert in psychiatry and forensic psychiatry. Dr. Gomez stated that after interviewing Campbell, conducting seven different psychiatric tests that accounted for various risk factors for reoffending, and examining the pertinent records in his file, she diagnosed him with pedophilic disorder, non-exclusive, indicating he was attracted to children of both sexes. She explained pedophilic disorder cannot be cured but can be managed through appropriate strategies and intervention.

         Dr. Gomez testified Campbell's proposed strategies to avoid reoffending- including finding religion and "walking away" from children any time he was around them-were wholly unrealistic. Additionally, Dr. Gomez expressed concern over Campbell's refusal to seek sex offender treatment while incarcerated, which is in itself a significant risk factor for reoffending. Dr. Gomez testified Campbell's pedophilic disorder caused him serious difficulty in controlling his behavior, and his lewd act offense-committed while out on bond for the CSCM-1st offense- indicated his difficulty in controlling his behavior was ongoing.

         As a result, Dr. Gomez opined Campbell was extremely likely to reoffend if he was not civilly committed. Further, Dr. Gomez testified the potential risk Campbell posed to future child victims was more imminent because, after his release, Campbell planned to live with his sister, and her grandchildren and greatgrandchildren would frequently be sleeping in the same house as Campbell, as had his previous victims. In conclusion, Dr. Gomez testified it was her medical opinion Campbell met the criteria for designation as an SVP and he was in need of long-term control, care, and treatment at a secure facility.

         Dr. Gehle then testified on behalf of Campbell and was qualified as an expert in forensic psychiatry. Dr. Gehle stated that after performing a similar interview and review of Campbell's file, she had also diagnosed him with pedophilic disorder, nonexclusive type. Dr. Gehle explained that in coming to her diagnosis, she had used only one of the seven psychiatric tests performed by Dr. Gomez. However, on that test, both doctors scored Campbell in the low- to moderate-risk group for reoffending, which equated to a rate of ...

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