This appealed addressed whether an ex-girlfriend’s testimony should be allowed for the Respondent at a pre-release hearing to determine whether he suffered from a mental abnormality. Respondent was nearing the end of his prison term for attempted sexual abuse in the first degree when the State commenced a civil management proceeding pursuant to New York Mental Hygiene Law article 10, requiring civil commitment or supervision for sex offenders. At the jury trial,
Respondent’s attorney attempted to call Naomi N.—his ex-girlfriend—to testify whether he ever offended against her in any way. Respondent’s attorney argued that the testimony was relevant as to whether he satisfied the second component a mental abnormality finding: inability to control oneself.
The trial court denied the request to call Naomi N. as a witness but stated that Respondent’s expert could testify as to any information provided by the ex-girlfriend so long as that information contributed to the expert’s diagnosis and opinion. Later, upon a second motion to allow Naomi N. to testify, the trial judge again denied the request. Following a dispositional hearing, the supreme court found that Respondent was a dangerous sex offender and was in need of confinement. The appellate division affirmed the supreme court’s decision, stating that the supreme court had not committed reversible error in denying the request to allow Naomi N. to provide witness testimony at trial.
The Court of Appeals reversed this decision and found that the supreme court abused its discretion by prohibiting Naomi N. from testifying. New York Mental Hygiene Law section 10.08(g) provides that a respondent in an article 10 proceeding may testify on his own behalf, call and examine other witnesses, and produce other evidence on his behalf. According to the Court, the relevant issue was whether Naomi N. had material and relevant evidence to offer on the question before the trial court. The Court found that Naomi N.’s testimony was relevant to the expert’s diagnosis of paraphilia NOS—non-consent. With respect to the two prongs of the expert’s diagnosis, the Court reasoned that Naomi N.’s testimony would have called into question whether Respondent exhibited a longstanding fixation on non-consenting women and whether he experienced difficulty controlling his sexual behavior. Therefore, Respondent was not limited to expert witnesses at trial.
2013 WL 5707863, 2013 N.Y. Slip Op. 06807