IN RE THE DETENTION OF DAVID L. TAFT JR. DAVID L. TAFT JR. Respondent-Appellant.
from the Iowa District Court for Linn County, Lars G.
who was civilly committed as a sexually violent predator,
appeals a jury's verdict finding he was not suitable for
discharge or placement in a transitional release program.
B. Mears of Mears Law Office, Iowa City, for appellant.
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Kevin Cmelik and Linda J.
Hines, Assistant Attorneys General, for appellee.
by Mullins, P.J., and Bower and McDonald, JJ.
Taft Jr., who was civilly committed as a sexually violent
predator, appeals a jury's verdict finding he was not
suitable for discharge or placement in a transitional release
program. We find the jury was properly instructed on the
State's burden of proof, the preconditions for placement
in the transitional release program, and the necessity of an
approved release prevention plan. We affirm the decision of
the district court.
Background Facts & Proceedings
1987, Taft was charged with lascivious acts with a minor and
other sexual offenses. He was convicted of the offenses and
sentenced to prison. Taft was discharged in May 1991. A few
days after his release, he entered a home where two girls,
ages nine and ten, were home alone and sexually assaulted one
of the girls and attempted to assault the other. See
State v. Taft (Taft I), 506 N.W.2d 757, 759
(Iowa 1993). Taft was convicted of sexual abuse in the second
degree, burglary in the first degree, and assault causing
bodily injury. Id. at 763.
Taft was discharged from prison in 2005, the State filed a
petition alleging he should be committed as a sexually
violent predator under Iowa Code chapter 299A (2005). A jury
found he suffered from a mental abnormality, which made it
more likely than not he would reoffend, and he was committed
to the civil commitment unit for sexual offenders. See
Taft v. Iowa Dist. Ct. (Taft II), 828 N.W.2d
309, 311 (Iowa 2013). In this program, there is an annual
review to determine whether the committed person should be
discharged or placed in a transitional release program.
Id. at 313. There is a rebuttable presumption in
favor of extending civil commitment. Id. (citing
Iowa Code § 229A.8(1)). A committed person is entitled
to a final hearing if, based on a consideration of all the
evidence, the court finds the person has shown by a
preponderance of the relevant and reliable evidence a hearing
should be held to determine whether the person's mental
abnormality has changed so the person is not likely to
reoffend. Id. at 318.
Taft's 2013 annual review, the district court denied his
request for a final hearing. Taft petitioned for certiorari,
claiming sections 229A.8A(2)(d) and (e) were
unconstitutional. See Taft v. Iowa Dist. Ct.
(Taft III), 879 N.W.2d 634, 638 (Iowa 2016). Our
supreme court determined the issue was not ripe for
adjudication, noting Taft had been denied a final hearing for
reasons other than those presented in sections 229A.8A(2)(d)
and (e). Id. at 639 ("Even assuming
arguendo we determined the challenged criteria
violate Taft's substantive due process liberty rights,
such a determination would not have any effect on the
district court's determination at the annual
Taft III, was pending, on February 25, 2015, the
district court granted Taft's request for a final
hearing, pursuant to section 229A.8(6), after his 2014 annual
review. The final hearing was held in September
2015. The State's expert, Dr. Stacey Hoem, a
psychologist, testified she believed Taft was more likely
than not to reoffend. She also testified Taft did not qualify
for transitional release under section 229A.8A because he did
not have an adequate relapse prevention plan and he recently
had three disciplinary reports. Taft presented the testimony
of Dr. Craig Rypma, a psychologist who stated Taft was not
likely to reoffend and his relapse prevention plan was
adequate. The jury returned a verdict finding Taft's
mental abnormality had not changed so he was not suitable for
discharge and he was not suitable for placement in the
transitional release program. Taft now appeals.
Standard of Review
review in this detention matter is for the correction of
errors at law. See In re Det. of Shaffer, 769 N.W.2d
169, 172 (Iowa 2009). To the extent constitutional issues are
raised, however, our review is de novo in light of the
totality of the circumstances. See In re Det. of
Matlock, 860 N.W.2d 898, 901 (Iowa 2015).
Taft claims the instructions impermissibly allowed the State
to prove Taft was dangerous by a preponderance of the
evidence. The jury was given the following instructions:
No. 10 In order to prove that the Respondent is not suitable
for discharge, the State must prove that the Respondent's
mental abnormality remains such that he is likely to engage
in predatory acts that ...