IN RE THE DETENTION OF RAYMOND GUTHRIE, Respondent-Appellant.
from the Iowa District Court for Madison County, Gregory A.
Guthrie appeals from an order of civil commitment entered
pursuant to Iowa Code chapter 229A (2015).
A. Eimermann of State Public Defender's Office, Des
Moines, for appellant.
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Linda J. Hines, Assistant
Attorney General, for appellee State.
Considered by Potterfield, P.J., Mullins, J., and Carr, S.J.
Guthrie appeals from the district court judgment finding him
to be a sexually violent predator subject to civil commitment
under Iowa Code chapter 229A (2015). Guthrie challenges the
sufficiency of the evidence showing that he is a sexually
violent predator. As defined in chapter 229A, a sexually
violent predator is a person who has been convicted of or
charged with a sexually violent offense and suffers from a
mental abnormality that makes the person more likely than not
to engage in predatory acts constituting sexually violent
offenses if not confined in a secure facility. Iowa Code
§ 229A.2(5) (defining "likely to engage in
predatory acts of sexual violence"), (12) (defining
"sexually violent predator"). Specifically, Guthrie
alleges the State failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt
that he is more likely than not to commit a sexually violent
offense if not confined.
review Guthrie's challenge to the sufficiency of the
evidence for the correction of errors at law. See In re
Det. of Betsworth, 711 N.W.2d 280, 286 (Iowa 2006). We
will affirm the finding that Guthrie is a sexually violent
predator if it is supported by substantial evidence. See
id. In determining whether substantial evidence supports
the finding, we consider the evidence in the light most
favorable to the State, including all legitimate inferences
and presumptions that may be fairly and reasonably deduced
from the record. See id. Evidence that raises only
suspicion, speculation, or conjecture is insufficient.
admits to sexually abusing a four-year-old child three or
four times in 2008. He began abusing the child again in 2012,
when the child was eight. That abuse led to Guthrie's
conviction on the charge of lascivious acts with a child. In
2010, he was convicted of indecent exposure. He meets the
diagnostic criteria for pedophiliac disorder, exhibitionist
disorder, and anti-social personality disorder.
sole challenge on appeal concerns whether he is more likely
than not to reoffend. Two expert witnesses testified at
Guthrie's trial concerning the likelihood of his
recidivism. Both experts scored Guthrie significantly higher
than average on diagnostic tests used to determine a
perpetrator's likelihood to reoffend. However, the
experts' opinions differed as to the likelihood that
Guthrie would engage in predatory acts constituting sexually
violent offenses if he was not confined. The State's
expert concluded Guthrie was likely to reoffend by using the
more standard approach in determining risk, which relies
"almost exclusively" on the standard actuarial
assessments. Guthrie's expert reached the opposite
conclusion, opining that factors like treatment and age
mitigated the likelihood that Guthrie would reoffend.
finding Guthrie to be a sexually violent predator, the
district court relied more heavily on the opinion of the
State's expert. The court found the standardized
assessments used by the State's expert were more reliable
and credible in determining the risk to reoffend than the
clinical factors relied on by Guthrie's expert.
Determining witness credibility and weighing evidence was the
job of the district court as factfinder. See In re Det.
of Barnes, 689 N.W.2d 455, 461 (Iowa 2004). In doing so,
the court was free to reject the testimony of one expert
witness and accept the testimony of the other expert witness.
Cf. In re Det. of Hennings, 744 N.W.2d 333, 340
(Iowa 2008) (noting the jury was free to reject the testimony
of Hennings's expert witnesses and instead to accept the
testimony of the State's expert witness). When the
determination that a person is a sexually violent predator
"turn[s] on a judgment of credibility between two
experts with different opinions, we give weight to the
district court's judgment." Barnes, 689
N.W.2d at 461.
argues substantial evidence does not support the district
court's conclusion because the recidivism rate, as
determined by the actuarial assessments, is less than fifty
percent and, therefore, not "more likely than not."
The recidivism rate Guthrie refers to is the rate at which
those who scored similarly on the assessments were convicted
of another sexually violent offense in the five years
following the assessment. To put this evidence in context,
the State's expert testified that sexually violent crimes
are underreported, with sixty-five percent of children who
have been sexually abused never reporting the abuse to anyone
as a child. Of the thirty-five percent who do report it, only
between ten and eighteen percent make a report to law
enforcement. Presumably, an even lesser percentage of these
crimes are prosecuted and lead to a conviction. As such, the
fact that half of the offenders who scored similarly to
Guthrie were convicted of a sexually violent offense within
five years of the assessment does not negate a finding that
Guthrie is more likely than not to reoffend. Guthrie's
assessment scores place him in the top ten percent of all sex
offenders for risk of reoffending. Viewing this evidence with
the rest of the record in the light most favorable to the
State while giving the appropriate weight to the district
court's credibility findings, substantial evidence
supports the district court's finding that Guthrie is
more likely than not to reoffend if not confined. Because
there is sufficient evidence that Guthrie is a sexually
violent predator, we affirm the civil commitment order.