Pennsylvania Supreme Court Decisions

Pennsylvania Supreme Court Decisions

Yes there is a standard to test criminal behavior and risks… or is there?

Megan’s Law – Scientific Evidence – SVP Assessment – Frye Com. v. Dengler, No. 104 MAP 2004, Castille, J, 12/30/05 – Psychologist’s expert testimony that defendant met the statutory criteria for classification as a Sexually Violent Predator was not novel scientific evidence and; therefore, was not subject to the evidentiary screening function served by the Frye test. [Query: Should not the Court have denied a Frye hearing on the basis that predictability of future dangerousness is ‘voodoo science’ and not novel scientific evidence?]

Exerpt from MR. JUSTICE BAER,  “[t]he requirement of general acceptance in the scientific community assures that those most qualified to assess the general validity of a scientific method will have the determinative voice.” Id. at 744-45; see Maj. Slip Op. at 14. In Addison, the court of appeals observed that the Frye test protects the “essential” ability of the opponent of challenged testimony “to produce rebuttal experts, equally conversant with the mechanics and methods of a particular technique” deployed by the proffered expert. […]but only conclusions based upon novel theories or methodologies. See Grady, 839 A.2d at 1045 (clarifying that, while the proponent must prove the general acceptance in the relevant scientific community of the methodology used, the proponent need not also prove “that the scientific community has also generally accepted the expert’s conclusion”); […]

In sanctifying as conclusive of the Frye inquiry the Megan’s Law criteria for assessing whether an offender is a Sexually Violent Predator (SVP), see 42 Pa.C.S. § 9795.4(b), the Majority proves far more than its ruling requires. The Majority finds Addison’s “determinative voice” not in the relevant scientific community but in the legislature. […]

Maj. Slip Op. at 18-19. The Majority concludes, in a similar vein, that “[b]ecause the legislature provided the framework for assessing whether an offender is an SVP[*], expert testimony tracking that framework, by definition, should be deemed generally accepted in the community of professionals who conduct SVP assessments.”

Read full Majority here: Director Note; Consider that this case was to affirm a Violent Criminal—or not. There are many ‘tools’ available to assess an ex-offender’s risk level at all tiers (I through III) of the SORNA Registry Tiers. We posit the use of these ‘tools’ as a standard approach for all convicted whom fall under the SORNA Registry Requirement. In Short, a regular and determinate novel approach to Tier assignment should be examined. Particularly after an ex-offender has completed or participated in a treatment program.

*Sexually Violent Predator

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