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In re D.W.

Supreme Court of North Dakota

July 25, 2016

In the Interest of D.W.
v.
D.W., Respondent and Appellant Melanie Price Dornonville de la Cour, Assistant State's Attorney, Petitioner and Appellee

         Appeal from the District Court of Burleigh County, South Central Judicial District, the Honorable Gail Hagerty, Judge.

          Brian L. Johnson, Assistant State's Attorney, for petitioner and appellee.

          Kent M. Morrow, for respondent and appellant.

          OPINION

          CROTHERS, JUSTICE.

         [¶ 1] D.W. appeals a district court order denying his petition for discharge from civil commitment as a sexually dangerous individual. Because the district court's findings of fact and conclusions of law are supported by clear and convincing evidence, the order is affirmed.

         I

         [¶ 2] D.W. was civilly committed as a sexually dangerous individual in June 2004. D.W. requested discharge from civil commitment in December 2014. The district court found the State's expert, Dr. Jennifer Krance, and the independent expert, Dr. Stacey Benson, agreed D.W. remains a sexually dangerous individual and has serious difficulty controlling his behavior.

         [¶ 3] Dr. Benson diagnosed D.W. with Factitious Disorder and stated he was "more mentally ill than... sexually dangerous...." Dr. Benson testified Factitious Disorder "is where an individual is feigning or faking certain symptoms or signs of an illness." Dr. Benson believed transferring D.W. from the North Dakota State Hospital to the federal system would allow him access to the type of specialized mental health treatment he needs.

         [¶ 4] Dr. Krance disagreed with Dr. Benson's diagnosis of Factitious Disorder. Dr. Krance testified no specific treatment for Factitious Disorder exists, but cognitive behavioral therapy and individual therapy are appropriate treatments and both are available at the North Dakota State Hospital.

         [¶ 5] The district court denied D.W.'s petition for discharge, finding he continued to be a sexually dangerous individual with serious difficulty controlling his behavior and had access to the most appropriate and least restrictive therapy at the North Dakota State Hospital. D.W. appeals, arguing the findings for continued treatment were not supported by clear and convincing evidence and Dr. Benson's diagnosis of Factitious Disorder required alternative treatment.

         II

         [¶ 6] D.W. argues the district court erred finding clear and convincing evidence that he remained a sexually dangerous individual.

"This Court reviews the civil commitment of a sexually dangerous individual under a modified clearly erroneous standard of review. We will affirm the district court's order denying a petition for discharge unless it is induced by an erroneous view of the law or we are firmly convinced it is not supported by clear and convincing evidence. In reviewing the order, we give 'great deference to the court's credibility determinations of expert witnesses and the weight to be given their testimony.' We have explained that the district court is 'the best credibility evaluator in cases of conflicting testimony and we will not second-guess the court's credibility determinations.'"

In re Thill, 2014 ND 89, ¶ 4, 845 N.W.2d 330 (internal citations omitted).

         [¶ 7] Section 25-03.3-01(8), N.D.C.C., requires the State to prove three prongs to show an individual remains sexually dangerous:

"(1) the individual has engaged in sexually predatory conduct; (2) the individual has a congenital or acquired condition that is manifested by a sexual disorder, a personality disorder, or other mental disorder or dysfunction; and (3) the disorder makes the individual likely ...

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