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SVP – Trial: Witnesses – Lay Expert – Probation/Parole Officer

State v. Thomas Treadway, 2002 WI App 195
For Treadway: Lynn E. Hackbarth

Issue: Whether a probation and parole agent was properly allowed to give an opinion regarding the likelihood of the respondent reoffending.

Holding:

¶29. The fact that Kittman was not a psychologist or mental health specialist did not preclude his testimony. Under Wis. Stat. § 907.02 (1997-98), relevant experience, education, and/or training may qualify a witness to testify as an expert. See State v. Hollingsworth, 160 Wis. 2d 883, 895-96, 467 N.W.2d 555 (Ct. App. 1991); see also Tanner v. Shoupe, 228 Wis. 2d 357, 373-75, 596 N.W.2d 805 (Ct. App. 1999). At the time of Treadway’s trial, Kittman was actively supervising about thirty-five released sex offenders and monitoring approximately fifty incarcerated sex offenders. He had been employed full-time in the specialized sex-offender unit for three years during which he had supervised hundreds of sex offenders. Clearly, central to Kittman’s professional responsibility was the ability to assess whether those he was supervising would reoffend. Prepared by both training and experience to assess Treadway, he was qualified to render an opinion on whether Treadway would reoffend. See Wis. Stat. § 907.04 (1997-98) (“Testimony in the form of an opinion or inference otherwise admissible is not objectionable because it embraces an ultimate issue to be decided by the trier of fact.”).
¶30. Additionally, the fact that Kittman did not provide the nexus to any mental disorder did not render his testimony inadmissible. In Post, the supreme court clarified that the “key to the constitutionality of the definition of mental disorder in chapter 980 is that it requires a nexus-persons will not fall within chapter 980’s reach unless they are diagnosed with a disorder that has the specific effect of predisposing them to engage in acts of sexual violence.” Post, 197 Wis. 2d at 306. Certainly, however, the supreme court was not requiring that testimony about an offender’s history, and testimony relating that history to a diagnosed mental disorder, come from a single witness. See State v. Zanelli, 223 Wis. 2d 545, 555-56, 589 N.W.2d 687 (Ct. App. 1998) (Wisconsin Stat. § 980.05(3)(a) “does not confine expert testimony to any specific standard; it does not mandate the type or character of relevant evidence the State may choose to meet its burden of proof.”).
¶31. Here, Kittman’s assessment of Treadway’s risk of reoffending was relevant to Treadway’s “dangerousness” under Wis. Stat. ch. 980, see Wis. Stat. § 980.02(2)(c) (1997-98), and his testimony about Treadway’s history, as well as his opinion that Treadway’s risk of reoffending was very high, logically connected to the additional evidence the State introduced through the testimony of Dr. Fields. See State v. Pharr, 115 Wis. 2d 334, 346, 340 N.W.2d 498 (1983) (“`[A]ny fact which tends to prove a material issue is relevant, even though it is only a link in the chain of facts which must be proved to make the proposition at issue appear more or less probable.'”).

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